Campus & Community

Kazakhstan pragmatic about business, ambassador says

As his nation struggles to overcome hundreds of years of domination in just a couple of decades, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United States says his country is working quickly to establish a pragmatic, pro-business climate that fosters growth politically and economically.

Ambassador Erlan Idrissov addressed the Denver Council on Foreign Relations Institute of International Education and the Denver Graduate School of International Studies on the University of Denver campus Feb. 12. After a brief address on “Kazakhstan’s Dynamic Growth,” Idrissov fielded questions ranging from his country’s interest in renewable energy to tourism to its banking climate.

The country has made big strides since declaring its independence in 1991 following the fall of the Soviet Union. Rich in oil, gas, coal and mineral resources, the country is reaching out to global partners and eager to trade, Idrissov said.

“If we think about it, today I would imagine that most of America knows where it is and something about it,” said DU Chancellor Robert Coombe as he introduced the ambassador. “We probably all have some kind of friend or acquaintance who is engaged in some kind of business in Kazakhstan.”

Idrissov said his country has much in common with Colorado. In addition to oil and gas reserves, his country boasts a variety of climates and geographical regions, from vast, fertile plains to mountain ranges. Colorado peaks top out around 14,000 feet, while Kazakhstan’s peaks top 21,000 feet.

“Today, Kazakhstan is a melting pot, like the United States,” he said.

Looking ahead, the ambassador said his country is eager to maintain a stable democracy and open society while looking beyond mining and drilling to tourism and high tech industries such as aerospace and biotech. Eco-tourism is a growing industry and the country is interested in renewable energy, but until it becomes cost effective, the abundant fossil fuels will likely power the area for the time being, he said.

Trips such as his recent visit to Denver, which included meetings with Mayor John Hickenlooper and Coombe will be key to creating partnerships with the West, the ambassador said. The country is open to new ideas and new relationships, he said.

“We are quite optimistic about our future,” he said. “The curtain is down. I would very much encourage you to do your own research … The doors are open for you.”

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