(EnergyAsia, June 17 2011, Friday) — Meeting last week in Azerbaijan, senior officials of 10 Central Asian countries have agreed on a strategic framework to develop transport networks, boost regional trade, and help secure reliable, efficient energy over the next decade.

The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program, which was established in 2001, has issued the CAREC 2020 programme that includes a five-year plan for priority regional investments in transport, trade facilitation and energy. CAREC 2020 will be formally adopted in November 2011 when member countries gather again in Baku city to mark the occasion of their 10th ministerial conference, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a leading institutional supporter.

The CAREC partnership comprises 10 countries—Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—and six multilateral institutions: the ADB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank, UN Development Programme, and World Bank. ADB has served as the CAREC Secretariat since 2001.

Juan Miranda, director-general of ADB’s Central and West Asia Department, said:

“This year is special as it marks the first decade of CAREC’s existence. It is a time to look back, celebrate, reflect and look to the opportunities ahead.

The CAREC countries are closer now than they have ever been, and CAREC 2020 will speed the process by which Central Asia reassumes its position as a pivotal crossroad for international trade and commerce.”

CAREC promotes project-based cooperation in transport, energy, trade facilitation, and trade policy. To date, the regional group boasts more than US$15 billion in CAREC-related investment in these sectors, including building and upgrading 3,600 km of roads and 2,000 km of railway; as well as ports and priority border crossings. CAREC has also improved energy security, efficiency and distribution throughout the region.