By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan may turn into a center of global trade, US Ambassador Richard Morningstar said at the Caspian-European Integration Business Club (CEIBC) meeting on Azerbaijani-American economic relations in Baku on Wednesday.
"I believe that it will become a country with an advanced economy in the region and the world," Morningstar said.
The ambassador noted the importance of taking a number of significant steps in the country. "Diversification of the economy is one of the most important issues now," he said.
Speaking about the energy sector, Morningstar said reserves of Azerbaijan's Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) oil fields in the Caspian Sea will reduce as time goes by and the current statistics indicates the reduction of revenues gained from the domestic energy sector.
Morningstar stressed the importance of implementing large-scale construction projects in the Azerbaijani non-oil sector to eliminate the dependence on oil and gas in the next 10 years.
"The economy of the country should be open for both domestic and external competition," Morningstar said.
He said the U.S. is interested in increasing global supplies, supports the Southern Corridor and is very active in the project.
The Southern Corridor is a priority EU energy project on a series of gas pipelines seeking to diversify sources of energy for European countries.
Regarding competitiveness in the Azerbaijani market, Morningstar cited some problems faced by exporters, overcoming which will enable Azerbaijan to ensure a bright future for itself.
"We have to admit that the state should contact with business if we want to create an efficient business environment. Both CEIBC and the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan may play an important role in this regard," Morningstar said.
Advanced education system and a broad human resource base are needed for the country's future development, Morningstar noted.
"Azerbaijan has invested heavily in the development of social spheres and this is very important for the country," he added. "However, a strong educational system must be created for the country's future."
Representatives of the CEIBC member oil and service companies made presentations during the meeting. Participating in the meeting were also executives of companies, representatives of diplomatic missions from Romania, Russia, Kazakhstan, Britain, France, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Moldova, Austria, Poland, Turkey, Latvia, Lithuania, Iran and other countries.
CEIBC was established in June 2002 with the support of Caspian Energy International Publishing House and the largest oil and gas companies working across the Caspian and Black Sea regions. Since 2002, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has been CIBC Honorary Chairman.
At first CIBC brought together companies from Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan. The Club's activity proves to be very successful as the number of member companies grew from 16 businesses in 2002 to more than 300 in 2007 and further to over 500 member companies and organizations from 50 countries around the globe.
CEIBC mainly seeks to create favorable business conditions in the Caspian, Black Sea and Baltic regions, to maintain business-to-government dialog in order to improve business conditions, promote contacts between large businesses and small and medium enterprises and promote investment of oil revenues in the non-oil sector of the country. Since its inception CEIBC has been drawing oil industry revenues for the development of the non-oil economy.