On 4th February, Lord Sheikh participated in a Special Presentation on the Privatisation Roadmap during the virtual conference, the Uzbek-British Trade and Industry Council (UBTIC).
I have long been a friend of Uzbekistan and the people of the marvellous country. I have visited the country on several occasions and prepared 4 reports on our relationship with Uzbekistan. In Uzbekistan, some people call me the English Lord.
In December 2017 I was the observer for the presidential elections. My findings were that the elections were transparent, fair and properly conducted and that President Miriziyoyev was elected democratically. Since coming to power, President Miriziyoyev has taken massive strides in bringing forward numerous reforms, and the country has progressed effectively. I have studied the speech made by the President Miriziyoyev in the Parliament and would like to commend him on the various reforms which are being introduced.
A fundamental element of the structural reforms in Uzbekistan has been reducing the presence of the state in the economy. I would like to make a suggestion, that with regard to Privatisation whenever it occurs, that people of Uzbekistan are encouraged to buy shares in the company.
I have met the political leaders of Uzbekistan and established a good connection with His Excellency Tim Torlot and His Excellency Said Rustamov. Our political relationship is growing with Uzbekistan, our trade relationship is deepening, and the bilateral relationship is very healthy, with open and friendly senior dialogue on both sides. We are keen to build on this with our Uzbek friends and we now have a DIT team in country who are keen to help and support UK companies and working to boost our trade relationship.
As we have now left the European Union, we are in charge of our own trading relationships and we have already signed trade agreements with 62 countries. I think that we should consider a trade agreement with Uzbekistan, which would be for mutual benefit.
During this event, we have been focussing on 4 main sectors which include opportunities for undertaking more trade and investment between the UK and Uzbekistan. These sectors are clean energy, education, healthcare and finance.
I regard to clean energy, I am pleased that the Uzbek government is committed to developing its renewable energy capacity. There are opportunities for the UK to work with the Government to develop a more robust and transparent regulatory framework that supports companies and consumers.
I know that Uzbekistan sees UK the partner of choice for Education and there are many opportunities for UK companies at all levels of the education system.
In terms of healthcare, there are also opportunities for UK companies in digital health solutions and in the privatization of state-owned healthcare companies.
In regard to finance, I chair the APPG on Islamic Finance and we can assist Uzbekistan in establishing an Islamic finance structure. We can also help them set up Islamic bonds and green bonds which can be listed on the London Stock Exchange.
In the four quarters to the end of Q2 2020, the total UK-Uzbekistan trade was £194m which was an increase of 55.2% compared to the end of last year. Our exports to Uzbekistan also went up by over 50%. The inward stock of foreign direct investment in the UK from Uzbekistan in 2018 was only £6m, and I would like for us to develop bilateral trade and for there to be more goods and services coming from Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan produces delicious fruit, lentils, vegetables, cereals, spices, which can be exported, as well as ceramics, carpets, silk fabrics, exquisite furniture, shoes, handmade scarfs, and household goods like bedsheets.
I would suggest that we hold a trade exhibition setting out all of the beautiful things produced by Uzbekistan. When it is possible, I would also like to see more people to people contact, and we should think about holding a cultural event here in the UK to showcase Uzbekistan’s dancing and music.
Uzbekistan holds the original holy Qur’an which was read by Khalifa Usman. The original holy Qur’an, or a copy of it, could be bought over for the cultural event, so that people can see it and other manuscripts too.
There are many cultural and economic ties between our two countries, and I hope this event can help to strengthen them further. Thank you.