The Foreign Service Institute, in partnership with the Office of Asia and Pacific Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs, hosted a Mabini Dialogue entitled “Philippines-Kazakhstan Relations: Realities, Prospects and Challenges” last 28 March 2017 at the Diamond Hotel in Manila. Ambassadors Askhat T. Orazbay and Usen A. Suleimen and Mr. Shavkat Sabirov were the guest speakers of the event.
In the first session, speakers elucidated on the government and society of Kazakhstan, its foreign policy, history, and its role in Central Asia. Kazakhstan since independence has successfully managed its relations with great powers and it is a country that has avoided internal strife despite having an ethnically diverse population. It has also implemented wide-ranging reforms that allowed it to achieve steady growth since 1991. The session showed that there are many untapped opportunities in Kazakhstan that could enhance Philippine-Kazakhstan relations.
H.E. Askhat Orazbay, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of Indonesia and non-resident Ambassador to the Philippines, provided an overview of the general political and economic profile of Kazakhstan. He also discussed the Eurasian Economic Union and the bright prospects for trade cooperation between the Philippines and Kazakhstan, especially with Kazakhstan’s newly built terminal and storage facility in Langunyen, China.
H.E. Dr. Usen Suleimen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Singapore, explained how the Kazakh government’s “economics first, politics later” principle contributed to Kazakhstan’s nation-building success. He also discussed Kazakhstan’s “multi-vector” foreign policy in dealing with big powers, the importance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative to Kazakhstan, and Kazakhstan’s active engagement to fight terrorism.
The second session examined potential areas of economic cooperation for an enhanced Philippines-Kazakhstan economic partnership. The keynote address of Manuel Teehankee, Undersecretary for International Economic Relations of the DFA, emphasized that the current efforts of the Department are mainly geared towards the promotion of strategic economic partnerships and strategic foreign direct investments as the country seeks to sustain its momentum as a growing economic power. The DFA is also actively exploring and monitoring non-traditional markets and under-represented market sectors such as Africa, Latin America, and Central Asia amid the Philippines’ pursuit of an independent foreign policy. Usec. Teehankee then underscored the large markets offered by the country, as well as its neighboring Asian nations, and highlighted the need for stronger bilateral economic relations between the Philippines and Kazakhstan. Both countries may capitalize on a number of complementarities and push for improved cooperation in sectors such as energy, agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, and information and communication technologies (ICTs). In the 2014 political consultations involving the two parties, Kazakhstan already expressed its willingness to undertake tourism cooperation and educational exchanges with the Philippines.
Mr. Shavkat Sabirov, an expert member of the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan, provided an overview of the economy of Kazakhstan, citing the country’s impressive rankings in several international indexes. The services sector, in particular, drives Kazakhstan’s economy as it contributes 55 percent to the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) followed by mining (13 percent) and manufacturing (11 percent). The country is rich in natural resources and has metallurgy, petrochemical industry, chemical industry, food industry, production of construction materials, and machinery as its priority sectors. As part of its initiatives to realize Modernization 3.0, the Kazakh government has made available a host of incentives for priority investment projects and outlined 100 concrete steps to implement the five institutional reforms which would foster a more stable, coherent, and developed Kazakhstan. Mr. Sabirov stressed that the Philippines can benefit from tapping the tourism market of the country as more than 11 million out of almost 18 million Kazakhs are active tourists.
Ambassador Suleimen briefly discussed the Kazakhstan-Asia Pacific Trade and Investment Chamber (KAPTIC) which primarily seeks to raise the profile of businesses from Asia-Pacific, Central Asia, and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and enhance business, trade, and capital flows between Kazakhstan and Asia-Pacific countries. Ambassador Suleimen urged Philippine firms to join KAPTIC and avail of its services since the organization mainly caters to corporations and businesses in Asia-Pacific and EAEU.
Some potential areas for cooperation raised during the forum include combating terrorism and promoting tourism. Recognizing Kazakhstan’s population of diverse ethnicities and religions, best practices on how Kazakhstan managed to avoid conflicts were discussed as well.