May 3rd, 2012
12:30 PM GMT
The United States aims to promote stability in Central Asia by encouraging trade in the region, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told CNN.
The American strategy focuses on bolstering north-south trade, linking India and Pakistan via Afghanistan to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
“If people are trading with each other, if they are investing in each other's countries, if they are engaged in commerce of all kinds, there develop relationships and, frankly, stakes in peace and security that are desperately needed,” Clinton told CNN’s Jill Dougherty.
“Security yes, we have to work on that, but what is really promising is the economic integration of the entire region,” she added.
But for many countries in the region, economic integration is seen as secondary to security. Instead of borders opening to trade, many are closing. But Clinton cited increased trade between India and Pakistan and across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as examples of progress.
She added: “There is an important idea of a pipeline that would carry gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan into India; all four countries are in support.
“There are roads and bridges being planned that come from Kazakhstan through Uzbekistan into Afghanistan that go through Turkmenistan to the sea. There’s just a lot of ideas.”
And she said trade could help combat extremism in the region. “Some countries would like to build a 20-foot wall because they worry about extremists from other places,” said Clinton. “That’s just not realistic in the 21st century. It’s far better to develop your economy to trade with your neighbours to give your young people jobs. That’s one of the best arguments against extremism.”
Clinton gave Uzbekistan as an example of U.S. investment, where an American automobile manufacturing plant is producing cars for export in the region.
“Each country has unique assets that can be capitalized on but no country alone can maximize their economic potential without opening their borders to more trade and investment,” she said. “So while we work bi-laterally with a lot of these countries to help them, we also continue to preach the idea of economic integration.”
She added: “We do have to put security at the forefront, and the United States has helped every one of these countries with security. But what is security for? It is to enable people to have a better life and one of those is by raising the stand of living and business, investment, and trade can do that.”
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