Chapter 8: Kazakhstan and Eurasian economic integration: quick start, mixed results and uncertain future
Eurasian economic integration has always been the official priority of Kazakhstan’s government; therefore Kazakhstan’s membership of the newly created Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) and Single Economic Space (SES), together with Russia and Belarus, seems to be a logical outcome of a consistent policy. However, as this chapter argues, the path that led to the current round of Eurasian integration was not that straight and clear, and the decision to pursue the ECU and SES option and its complexities can be better understood if placed in its political and geopolitical context. The chapter starts with a brief overview of possible (and impossible) alternative options for economic integration explored by the Kazakhstani government or made available to it. To address the issue of why Kazakhstan has privileged the Eurasian vector of integration over the others, it assesses the relative importance of economics, politics, and geopolitics for decision-making on trade issues under President Nazarbaev. The official discourse is analysed along with other discourses provided by the academic and business community. Finally, the chapter looks at the first economic and political results of the ECU, discusses the prospects for Eurasian integration from the point of view of sustainability and utility taking into account the WTO accession of Russia and the forthcoming accession of Kazakhstan, and attempts an analysis of its implications for Kazakhstan’s foreign policy.
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