An official Uzbekistani business delegation is set to visit Pakistan today.
Tashkent and Islamabad will pursue negotiations on a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) to deepen bilateral ties by increasing rail and road cooperation between Central Asia and Pakistani seaports. The agreement follows a larger trend of Pakistan forging closer relations with the Central Asian republics in trade, finance and energy. To do so, Islamabad has leveraged Chinese investment through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which circumvents Afghanistan, where the evolution of security risks remains uncertain.
Landlocked Central Asian states see Pakistan as a mean to diversify their trade partners. Pakistan’s ambition is to become a regional logistics hub and its seaports—propped up by CPEC investment—provide an opportunity for the republics to access the Indian Ocean and new markets. Likewise, its strategic location at the entrance of the Persian Gulf has made it an anchor in the Indian Ocean that allows it to secure its energy supplies and trade flows to the Middle East, Africa and beyond.
Expect the PTA’s ‘win-win’ cooperation to lead to the growth of trade volume between Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Nevertheless, these agreements reinforce China’s role as a commercial hub, which de-enclaves both Central Asia and Pakistan.