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U.S.-Central Asia trade framework signed

WASHINGTON, June 1 (UPI) -- The United States and five Central Asian countries Tuesday signed a trade framework agreement, the U.S. trade representative's office said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) that will provide a forum to address trade issues and help enhance U.S.-Central Asian trade.

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"The objective of the TIFA is to increase and diversify trade and investment opportunities between the United States and Central Asia. We look forward to working closely through the TIFA to further strengthen our bilateral economic relationships and our relationship with the region as a whole," Zoellick said.

The five countries of Central Asia have a combined population of 55.9 million. U.S. imports from Central Asia totaled $570.5 million in 2003; U.S. exports amounted to $548.1 million in that same year. Major exports to the region include machinery and equipment, chemicals, agricultural products and aircraft. Major imports from Central Asia include mineral fuels, chemicals, textiles, metals and cotton.

The TIFA will also act as a forum to address regional trade issues and will create stronger trade ties among the five Central Asian countries, Zoellick said.

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