Kyrgyzstan to withdraw WTO complaint as Kazakhstan lifts border restrictions

By bne IntelliNews December 6, 2017

Kyrgyzstan is to withdraw its complaint filed with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Kazakhstan’s moves to tighten controls on the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border introduced in October, Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Tolkunbek Abdykulov told reporters on December 5.

The complaint is to be withdrawn with Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan having signed a "road map" agreement to solve the border issues, Abdykulov said. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his newly inaugurated Kyrgyz counterpart Sooranbai Jeenbekov met in Minsk on November 30, where the two leaders discussed fixing the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border dispute which began between the two neighbours amid the Kyrgyz presidential election in October. Kazakhstan agreed to relax controls at the Kordai border crossing as long as the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) deployed representatives to jointly inspect goods coming in from China. Both countries are members of the EEU, the Moscow-led trade bloc. While the trade dispute has been largely political, Kazakhstan insisted Kyrgyzstan was avoiding EEU import levies by smuggling in Chinese imports.

Kyrgyzstan joined the EEU, which also includes Armenia and Belarus, in August 2015. The border dispute arose after Kazakhstan tightened Kyrgyz border controls following accusations that Kazakhstan tried to meddle in Kyrgyzstan’s October 15 presidential election.

The border restrictions, which were lifted as of December 4, supposedly temporarily halved trade flow between the two Central Asian countries, when Kazakh border guards started singling out Kyrgyz cargoes for inspections on October 10. On October 24, Kyrgyzstan announced it would be cancelling $100mn in grant aid it had agreed to receive from Kazakhstan.

Kyrgyzstan joined the EEU in August 2015 with the hope of securing ease of access for its agricultural products, among other goods, to Kazakhstan and Russia. Kazakhstan has since been making Kyrgyzstan’s participation difficult by demanding that Kyrgyzstan meet hygiene standards of the EEU. Moreover, the bloc has hit Kyrgyzstan’s re-export market—especially, the used car market and the Dordoi bazaar, which served as a conduit for cheap Chinese goods flowing into Russia and the rest of Central Asia.

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