In recent years, I have seen the bilateral relationship between the United States and Turkmenistan become closer and more wide-ranging. Of all the areas where our two countries have made progress, the deepening of commercial ties stands out in particular.
To find evidence of this, one needs to look no further than the U.S.-Turkmenistan Business Forum, a joint endeavor of the U.S. Embassy, Government of Turkmenistan, and U.S.-Turkmenistan Business Council held last week in Ashgabat. This incarnation of the Business Forum -- the second of its kind -- convened speakers from academia and industry, as well as representatives of the U.S. and Turkmenistan governments, for expert-level discussions on communications, transportation, and innovative technologies.
These are critical sectors in Turkmenistan’s strategy to enhance national and regional development. Turkmenistan has ambitious plans to meet its growing need for telecommunication services and equipment (including mobile communication and Internet), introduce advanced technology across all sectors of the economy, and thereby attract foreign investment. With the country’s first commercial telecommunication satellite launch planned for the end of 2014 (an endeavor being led by U.S.-based SpaceX), Turkmenistan is actively seeking to employ the newest technologies to expand the breadth of the existing spectrum of telecom services in the country.
The government is also prioritizing the development of a robust transportation sector and has already initiated large-scale reforms to improve its road, rail, and air infrastructure, including plans to construct 1,800 new facilities throughout the country at a total cost of $40 billion this decade. The benefits of this drive do not stop at Turkmenistan’s borders, however. New rail routes will provide Central Asia with a major link to the Persian Gulf and further integrate Afghanistan into the region. Turkmenistan Airlines’ fleet of Boeing jets are increasingly flying to more and more diverse international destinations, bringing the people of this country closer to the rest of the world.
With such rapid developments taking place, the day-long Business Forum was an optimal opportunity to highlight the United States unparalleled products and services as well as demonstrate the ways in which America’s technology and know-how can help address some of these important issues facing Turkmenistan. Representatives of some of the United States’ leading companies, including Motorola, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and Caterpillar, among others, offered their expertise and showcased the ways they can support Turkmenistan’s impressive economic growth, aid its efforts at diversification, and speed its integration into the global economy.
I have no doubt that the Forum not only served to further deepen our countries’ commercial relationship, but accurately demonstrated that American companies stand ready to support the Government of Turkmenistan in its continued development initiatives, whether they be launching satellites into space or expanding the computer literacy of Turkmenistan’s students in this increasingly interconnected world.
The U.S.-Turkmenistan Business Forum has come a long way in a short while, evolving from an occasional special event to a fixture on the calendar. Its meetings and sessions allow for a previously unprecedented level of interaction between American businesses and their Turkmen counterparts and show the value of what U.S. companies can offer and indeed have already offered this country. The U.S. Embassy looks forward with great optimism to future forums and further opportunities to boost private sector engagement in this growing Central Asian nation.
About the Author: Robert E. Patterson, Jr. serves as U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan.