Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, Vol.1, No.1, (Spring 2002)
Richard Pomfret. Central Asia Turns South? Trade Relations in Transition. The Royal
Institute of International Affairs. Chatham House: London, 1999. 46 pages. $14,95 pbk.
The Central Asian Republics, once a part of the former USSR and independent since 1991,
have started to seek new trading partners and new markets. However, the first years of their
independence have been very hard mainly because of the economic problems they are having.
There are infrastructure problems and not enough investment capital or experienced
entrepreneurs, which mean that these countries are less able to be competitive in world
The short book being reviewed here, written by Richard Pomfret, contains five chapters. The
first chapter presents a general outline of the trade relations of the Central Asian republics and
offers basic economic data about the Central Asian countries in the Economic Cooperation
Organization (ECO) which includes Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, who founded the ECO in
1985, and also includes since 1992 Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz
Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan . The ECO succeeds the Regional
Cooperation for Development Organization, and much as the former organization did it
promotes economic, technical, and cultural cooperation.
The second chapter discusses the infrastructure in place in Central Asia that is so important in
determining the trade and development that occurs in the region. As Pomfret points out, the
transportation and telecommunications infrastructure between the Central Asian republics and
their southern neighbors is generally poor. This part of the book also presents the important
debates going on related to the oil and gas pipelines that are being planned for.
The third chapter focuses on the trade potential and trade policies of the Central Asian
countries. As the author points out, of the ECO countries only Turkey and the Kyrgyz
Republic are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) although Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan have WTO observer status and are applying for membership. (Iran also became a
member of the WTO in 2001) Pomfret concludes that the trading potential of the Central
Asian republics is less than that of the three largest economies of the ECO, Turkey, Iran, and
Pakistan, who have long been market economies involved in world trade unlike the Central
Asian countries that are in the process of changing over from central planning. As for