Interviews and speeches
Interview with Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Canada Mr. Konstantin Zhigalov for BN Magazine
October 15, 2014
Q: 2012 marked 20 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Canada. How is this relationship developing today?
The results of the 20-year bilateral cooperation deserve a positive evaluation. Today, Canada is among the top 10 largest trade and investment partners of Kazakhstan. In turn, Kazakhstan is Canada’s top trading partner among the CIS countries and Eastern and Central European states. In 2013 Kazakhstan-Canadian trade was almost $3 billion ($3.3 billion in 2012). There is a growing investment partnership. According to the data from Statistics Canada, total direct investments from Canada to Kazakhstan in 1994-2012 were over $13.7 billion.
Q: What was the highlight of your partnership last year?
The highlight of last year became the visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada John Baird to Astana in November. His visit was the first bilateral trip of a Canadian Foreign Minister to Kazakhstan since our countries established diplomatic relations and demonstrated the significant opportunities for partnership between Kazakhstan and Canada in nuclear energy, agriculture, investment, education and other areas. In Astana, Minister Baird also signed the Agreement between Canada and Kazakhstan on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.
Q: What is the significance of the concluded agreement?
This agreement facilitates a new level of mutually beneficial partnership for our countries and our businesses. Bilateral cooperation in the uranium sector is gaining strategic importance. Saskatchewan’s Cameco Corporation is the key partner of Kazakhstan in uranium sector. Both our countries are leading players in global nuclear energy and Kazakhstan is the biggest exporter of uranium in the world. Considering the constant growth in demand for energy and availability of significant uranium reserves, Kazakhstan made a political decision to construct a nuclear plant on its territory. Various technology options for construction of the plant are being reviewed now, including the CANDU reactors.
Q: How important is the energy cooperation in Kazakhstan-Canadian relations?
Oil and gas industry plays an important role in Kazakhstan-Canadian relations. That is why, Minister of Oil and Gas of Kazakhstan Uzakbai Karabalin was on a working visit to Calgary in October last year. That visit demonstrated the interest of the two countries to expand the already successful partnership as represented by the sales of Kazakhstan’s oil to Canada (over $5.3 billion during 2012-2013) and active participation of Canadian companies from Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario in delivery of equipment and provision of services in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas sector.
We view energy sector as a foundation for further diversification of our cooperation, for example, in the sphere of education and people-to-people ties. Kazakhstan enjoys successful partnership with Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT Polytechnic) that was chosen as a strategic partner in development of APEC Petrotechnic, the Interregional Professional Training and Retraining Centre in the oil and gas sector in the western part of Kazakhstan. This partnership is ensuring that Kazakhstan that has the intention to become one of ten biggest oil producers in the world by 2020 has skilled professionals in its oil and gas sector.
Q: In addition to energy and education, what are some other areas of successful cooperation?
Agriculture is among out traditional areas of mutually beneficial partnership. The exchanges of visits by the heads of Kazakhstan and Canadian Agriculture Ministries in 2012 and 2013 respectively strengthen our cooperation and business ties. Our agricultural cooperation with Canada is focused on livestock and farm equipment. Manitoba is an important provincial partner of Kazakhstan in this area, having exported over $80 million of agriculture and grain handling equipment to Kazakhstan during 2009-2012. Overall, Kazakhstan is Manitoba’s 5th largest export market, only behind the US, Russia, Australia and Brazil.
Each year, more companies from Kazakhstan participate in business forums and fairs hosted by Canada, including Alberta’s Farmfair International, which was attended in 2013 by representatives of several Kazakh companies, including KazBeef, Miras and KazCanAgro. We see that Kazakhstan and Canada are consistently broadening and deepening agriculture partnership.
Q: Are you optimistic about future business partnership between Kazakhstan and Canada?
There are 40 representative offices with the Canadian capital registered in Kazakhstan. They are engaged in various economic sectors, including oil & gas sector, mining, agriculture, engineering, construction, consulting, healthcare and education. Among them are such well-known companies as Cameco Corporation, SNC-Lavalin, Bombardier, Uranium One, Solmax International, CanAgro, DonMar, Morris Industries, Bourgault and others.
One of the recent developments in our business partnership is broadening of Bombardier’s operations in Kazakhstan, particularly expansion of transportation services, as Kazakhstan is working to establish Air Kazakhstan Company that will perform domestic flights. We hope that there will be a representative office of the Bombardier Company in the country towards closer cooperation on the entire region.
In addition to attracting large companies and corporations, Kazakhstan is also interested in active engagement with medium and small enterprises from Canada. For this purposes our Embassy is currently preparing for publication a specialized Business Guide for Canadian businessmen. This guide will help our Canadian partners to discover new opportunities for cooperation and investment in the fast growing and developing Kazakhstan.