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Eurasianet is an independent news organization that covers news from and about the South Caucasus and Central Asia, providing on-the-ground reporting and critical perspectives on…

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Uzbekistan's Trade Deficit with China Deepens

  • Trade statistics from 2023 reveal Uzbekistan's trade deficit with China, with Uzbek exports accounting for only a fraction of the total trade volume.
  • Chinese imports dominate Uzbekistan's market, particularly in autos, consumer electronics, and mobile phones.
  • China's role extends beyond trade, with significant Chinese loans supporting sectors like energy, transport, agriculture, and water management in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan wants to develop an “all-weather strategic partnership” with China. But trade statistics for 2023 indicate the developing relationship between Tashkent and Beijing is far from one of equals. 

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev traveled to China in late January, meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The two countries signed an array of agreements during Mirziyoyev’s visit that a presidential statement said would “enrich the content” of their strategic partnership. The bilateral documents signed in Beijing outlined cooperation in a wide variety of areas, ranging from big-picture issues, including environmental protection and poverty reduction, to micro topics, such as the sanitary standards for Uzbek pea exports to China.

While Beijing rolled out the red carpet for Mirziyoyev, the numbers confirm that the foundation of any strategic partnership rests more on rhetoric than substance. Figures covering 2023 show that Uzbekistan ran a severe trade deficit with Beijing, deepening a dependency on Chinese durable goods. According to PRC’s customs agency, China’s trade turnover with Uzbekistan last year totaled $14 billion, with Uzbek exports accounting for only $1.6 billion of the overall amount. Numbers provided by Central Asian states often do not align with official Chinese data, but Uzbekistan’s Statistics Agency also reported that while the volume of Uzbek-Chinese trade reached $13.7 billion, exports to China only stood at $2.5 billion.

Uzbekistan’s growing appetite for Chinese autos has been well documented. The imbalance also extends to consumer electronics, including mobile phones.

The Uzbek Agency for Statistics reported that the country imported 3.1 million mobile phones from China in 2023, far outpacing imports from other sources. Vietnam ranked as the second biggest mobile phone supplier to Uzbekistan, shipping 276,800 units. Third was India, with 37,200 units shipped. The overall total reflected 13.7 percent growth in mobile phone imports over 2022 numbers.

China additionally has established itself as a major creditor of Uzbekistan, according to officials at the Uzbek Ministry of Investment, Industry and Trade. The ministry reported that Uzbekistan attracted international loans totaling $2.8 billion in 2023, the majority of which was provided by the Asian Development Bank ($616 million), the World Bank ($552 million) and China ($399 million). The Uzbek government devoted $872 million in loans to the country’s energy sector. Meanwhile, the transport sector gained $473 million in international support, while agriculture and water management sector received $300 million.

By Eurasianet.org

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