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Uzbekistan plans to frontload fx reform - IMF

25 July 2017

Uzbekistan plans to free up its tightly regulated foreign exchange system as a matter of priority, the International Monetary Fund said after visiting the country. The former Soviet republic's elaborate system of currency controls and restrictions is the main obstacle to foreign investment, according to both businesses and officials. "The (IMF) mission especially welcomed the authorities' plan to frontload reforms of the foreign exchange system," the IMF said in a statement published late on Monday. Sources told Reuters this month Uzbekistan had allowed a limited number of banks and companies to trade foreign currency at the market rate in a pilot project that could lead to the introduction of full convertibility of the sum UZS currency. 

Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous nation and second-biggest economy, requires exporters to sell a quarter of their foreign currency revenue at the official rate, about 4,000 sums per dollar. Importers, at the same time, can only buy foreign currency on a separate, bourse market where they pay about 9,000 per dollar, although the rate is not officially reported. The third, black market rate, mostly used by individuals, values the sum at about 8,400. The IMF said in the same statement that unifying exchange rates would allow Uzbekistan's central bank to strengthen its monetary policy and promote job creation and growth. ""The reform of the foreign exchange system would need to be backed up by restructuring state-owned enterprises and state-controlled banks, removing other bottlenecks to international trade and FDI, and streamlining laws, regulations, and practices that unnecessarily raise transaction costs for businesses, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises crucial for promoting job creation," it said. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov Editing by Jeremy Gaunt) ((olzhas.auyezov@thomsonreuters.com; +7 727 2508 500; Reuters Messaging: olzhas.auyezov.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))