On November 15 as part of the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Roundtable, the OECD, together with the EU and the government of Uzbekistan, organised a virtual roundtable to discuss the findings of the draft OECD Monitoring Note on Improving export promotion policies in Uzbekistan and share good practices from OECD and Eurasia countries, including France, Poland and Moldova.
The webinar was opened and moderated by H.E. Professor Aleksander Surdej, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Poland to the OECD and Chair of the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Roundtable. He acknowledged the review as an important milestone for Uzbekistan on its journey towards greater trade integration. He also stressed the relevance of improved export promotion policies as a driver of growth in the current recovery phase. Mr Otabek Nazirov, Adviser to the Minister and Director General of the Foreign Direct Investment Fund of Uzbekistan, detailed his government’s policy agenda to support a more favourable trading environment and SMEs, focusing in particular on the establishment of Uzbekistan’s export promotion agency. Mr François Bégeot, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation to Uzbekistan,highlighted how this roundtable can accelerate the reform momentum regarding SME export policies. Finally, Mr Toimas Yakubov, Deputy Director of the Export Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade, detailed key actions and insights on recent export promotion reforms.
The panel discussion then offered an opportunity to discuss the measures implemented by Uzbekistan to support the internationalisation of SMEs, and new priorities that emerged from the pandemic. Ms Amélie Schurich-Rey (OECD) presented the main findings of the OECD Monitoring. The Note shows that further improvements are warranted to make consulting activities to improve SMEs’ knowledge of foreign markets more accessible, to expand the export promotion network abroad and unify the image of the national brand “Made in Uzbekistan”, and transition towards a more and complex outcome based monitoring system export promotion programs.
In his role as lead reviewer, Mr Philippe Yvergniaux, Director of International Cooperation at Business France, then corroborated several points made by the OECD report. He pointed out the tremendous need for up-to-date information for SMEs and for a partial digital shift regarding the services offered by the Export Promotion Agency (EPA). The Head of International Projects Unit at the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, Ms Aleksandra Wadowska, also echoed the OECD report on that end, quoting the impact of the pandemic on Polish businesses and the growing interest of their e-learning platform. She also acknowledged the need for an extensive market knowledge provided by a large export promotion network abroad. Ms Irina Tolstousov, Head of Country Brand Promotion Department at Invest Moldova, finally shared with the audience details of her agency’s latest “Tree of Life” country brand campaign.
An instant poll of participants showed the interconnectedness of issues holding back SME and trade development, ranging from access to finance to the operational environment of firms. Mr William Tompson, Head of the OECD Eurasia Unit, described these results to highlight the central point about building an effective export promotion framework: it needs to address simultaneously several vital areas for private sector development. Followed a lively Q&A session which led to further exchange of national best practices on sectoral tailored-made solutions and export certification scheme.
The session was concluded by Ambassador Surdej underlining the importance of collaboration with the OECD and the EU in unlocking Uzbekistan’s full trade potential. Moving forward, the OECD confirmed its readiness to continue its successful co-operation with Uzbekistan for SMEs internationalization.