(EnergyAsia, November 6 2012, Tuesday) — Ministers of the 10 Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) programme nations have agreed on a plan to implement more than US$23 billion in new regional transport infrastructure projects along with energy and trade initiatives.

Meeting in the Chinese city of Wuhan last week, the group will work on 68 transport projects that will contribute to six major corridors linking the ports in eastern China with the Caucasus and beyond, and connecting northern Kazakhstan to the trading hubs in Karachi and Gwadar in Pakistan, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which acts as CAREC’s secretariat.

The Wuhan Action Plan will be complemented by efforts to improve border and customs services to allow people and goods to move easily between nations. In addition, CAREC nations aim to raise funds to build and improve energy assets, said the ADB.

At the meeting, the group’s ministers from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also agreed to establish a base for the CAREC Institute by 2014 to support strategic projects through analytical work, training and knowledge management.

“Regional cooperation is essential to promote inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth,” ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said in a keynote address to the 11th CAREC Ministerial Conference last week.

“Poor connectivity arising from inadequate transport and communications infrastructure can impede trade expansion and investment attraction.”

The meeting was attended and supported by representatives from CAREC’s multilateral institution partners including the ADB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the UN Development Programme and the World Bank, along with bilateral donor agencies from France, Japan, UK and the US.

Since 2001, the CAREC region has seen more than US$19 billion invested in over 120 projects including almost 4,000 km of roads, 3,200 km of railways, and more than 2,300 km of power transmission lines.

CAREC ministers, who last met in Baku, Azerbaijan in November 2011, have agreed to meet in Kazakhstan in late 2013.

ADB has acted as the CAREC Secretariat since the group was formed in 2001.