On 25 February 2021, the OECD held the first virtual working group on monitoring SME export promotion policies in Uzbekistan. The monitoring will assess the implementation of a peer review on the same topic carried out in 2017.
The first working group was an opportunity to discuss progress made by Uzbekistan since the 2017 peer review, and to see where initial recommendations may need to be altered or augmented to fit changing realities on the ground. The event was organised as part of the OECD Policy Component of the EU Central Asia Invest initiative and brought together experts from the OECD with a number of stakeholders, from the public and private sector in Uzbekistan, as well as representatives from the EU Delegation in Tashkent. The initial peer review took place in Almaty in 2017 as part of the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Roundtable, and recommendations were endorsed by the government of Uzbekistan at the end of the session.
Opening the session, Mr Aleksey Sim, Head of Department at the Ministry of Trade and Investment, emphasised that supporting the country’s SMEs was a priority for the ministry, noting the significant share these firms played in driving exports and employment. Mr Sim also expressed his enthusiasm for the form of the monitoring exercise, saying that he and colleagues were grateful for the ongoing and collaborative nature of the work. Mr François Bégeot, Head of Co-operation at the EU Delegation to Uzbekistan, recognised the efforts made in recent years by the government to support export-orientated SMEs, noting that an EPCA agreement will soon be implemented and that talks are ongoing to receive GPS+ status – both of these areas will be beneficial to the government’s WTO accession ambitions.
Mr Arnault Prêtet, Deputy Head of the Central Asia Unit in the OECD Eurasia Division, opened the monitoring component of the working group by recalling the recommendations made in the 2017 peer review before outlining the next steps in the monitoring process. A preliminary assessment of how recommendations had been implemented was given by Ms Amélie Schurich-Rey, Economist and Policy Analyst in the OECD Eurasia Division, who also noted that the monitoring took place in a context where SMEs had been particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Ms Schurich-Rey drew attention to the fact that the government had been quick to offer targeted support to export-orientated SMEs.
Complementing the OECD presentations were interventions from Mr Murod Rakhimov, Head of Division at the Export Promotion Agency of Uzbekistan, and Mr Gofurjon Usmanov, Head of Department at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Mr Rakhimov detailed a number of the support measures offered by the agency, drawing particular attention to the agency’s system of preferential export credit rates. Representing the private sector, Mr Usmanov outlined a number of SME-targeted services offered through the CCI, while drawing attention to a range of issues that firms continued to face in expanding export-oriented activities.
Mr Alexey Sim offered some closing remarks to the session, thanking the EU for the support and noting the project’s importance for the country as it charts its recovery from the pandemic. Concluding the working group, Mr Bégeot thanked the Ministry for their hard work, noting that their efforts had contributed to raising the profile and credibility of the economy. Both speakers looked forward to the monitoring work continuing throughout the year.