Spain seeks enriched economic links with Kazakhstan

Nur-Sultan, May 14 (EFE).- Spain’s No. 2 diplomat called here Friday for a deepening of economic ties between her country and Kazakhstan, pointing to the potential of boosting Spanish exports to the Central Asian nation in areas such as agriculture, renewable energies and infrastructure.

“Spain is a country that imports many goods from this country and is a good customer of Kazakhstan, and now is the time to balance this relationship and work for more Spanish investment here and for more balanced trade between the two countries,” Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Cristina Gallach told Efe in Nur-Sultan.

Amid the economic disruptions caused by Covid-19, bilateral trade plunged nearly 41 percent last year to $1.4 billion and Kazakh exports to Spain accounted for $1.2 billion of that total.

“And that is why we are looking at new sectors in the economy that are going to take on an even greater role after the pandemic,” Gallach said at the start of a two-day visit to Kazakhstan.

For many years, she said, Spain and Kazakhstan have had “a very deep strategic relationship” with a strong economic dimension, as reflected by the presence here of major Spanish companies including Talgo, Airbus Defence & Space, Indra, Inditex, Maxam and Glovo.

“What we think is that with the halt because of the pandemic in terms of travel and a certain slowdown in the development of this relationship, the time has come to deepen and to revitalize it,” Gallach said.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Yerlan Alimbayev, Gallach said that the two countries are ready “for a deeper economic, trade and investment relationship.”

The secretary pointed to the export of food and agricultural products, “where Spain is a pioneer and has an excellent competitive position,” as well as to her country’s strengths in the areas of renewable energy and infrastructure.

On the subject of infrastructure, Gallach said that Spain can expect “positive news” soon regarding projects in Kazakhstan, such as the construction of a light rail system in Almaty, the country’s largest city.

Alimbayev in turn highlighted possible cooperation in the fields of green technology and management of water resources, spheres in which “Spain has great experience.”

Spain also looks forward to deepening cultural relations with Kazakhstan, Gallach said, noting that a number of her compatriots teach Spanish at Kazakh universities.

The secretary, who took the opportunity of a meeting Friday with Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi to invite him to visit Spain, said she was hopeful that her country would soon re-open to tourists from Kazakhstan.

Before the pandemic, Spain received anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 Kazakh travelers every year.

Gallach told Efe that the pandemic interrupted efforts toward an agreement for direct flights between Spain and Kazakhstan.

“We are going to work so that they can be resumed. We know that there is great interest from Kazakh tourists to visit Spain and vice versa, and we think that, with the normalization of travel, the opening of direct flights will strengthen these possibilities for relations and we are going to work toward this objective,” she said.

Alimbayev said he hoped that direct flights could begin in August or September. EFE kk-cae/bsi/lap/dr

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