Opening and Plenary Session “Navigating Trade Regulations”


Chairperson of the board of Kazakhstan’s Economic Research Institute,Kazakhstan

Ruslan Sultanov is chairperson of the board of Kazakhstan’s Economic Research Institute. Holding MBAs from both the T. Ryskulov Kazakh Economic University and the International Business School, Ruslan began his career in 2002 at the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Kazakhstan, working in the tax committee, and then in the central office for analyzing customs and tax revenues. Since January 2005, he worked at Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, specializing in analysis and development of internal and external trade, including participating in negotiations on Kazakhstan’s WTO accession. From October 2006 Ruslan served as advisor to the president of the Center for Trade Policy Development, before being appointed vice president in 2007. In 2008 he became head of the Center for Trade Policy Development, where he was responsible for providing analytical support on trade policy issues, including creation of the Customs Union and Kazakhstan’s WTO accession. Since March 2016 Ruslan has been engaged in private entrepreneurial activity, and from April 2017 he was made head of the ‘PharmMedIndustry of Kazakhstan’ association of local pharmaceutical and medical product manufacturers. Ruslan has held his current leadership position at the Economic Research Institute from October 2019, where he provides analytical support on economic policy issues.



Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, USA

Zeinah Salahi joined the Bureau for Asia in August 2023 as the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia.Before joining the Bureau, she served at the USAID/Kosovo mission, first as the Deputy Mission Director and then as the Mission Director in July 2021. Prior to Kosovo, Ms. Salahi served as Deputy Mission Director for USAID/Bangladesh, helping to formulate and implement the U.S. Government’s response to the Rohingya refugee crisis.Ms. Salahi joined USAID as a Foreign Service Attorney, beginning her USAID tenure in the General Counsel’s Office in Washington. She then served in Egypt during the Arab Spring, in South Sudan shortly after the country’s independence, and again in Egypt as a Resident Legal Officer.Before joining USAID, Ms. Salahi worked as a corporate associate in New York with the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and as a negotiations advisor for the Middle East peace process with Adam Smith International (2004-2009).Ms. Salahi received her Bachelor’s degree in international relations from Boston University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.


Kazakhstan’s Vice-Minister of Trade and Integration, Kazakhstan

Kairat Torebayev is Kazakhstan’s Vice-Minister of Trade and Integration, holding degrees from the Kazakh State Academy of Management, and the University of Bern. From July 2001 to October 2009 he held various positions at Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and at the Kazakh Embassy in India. In 2011 he became a coordinator of the Asian Development Bank’s Central Asia Regional Cooperation Program, before returning to public service as First Secretary of the Foreign Economy Policy Department of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2012. In December of the same year he was appointed advisor to the    Secretariat of the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, before joining the Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning in early 2013. From October 2014 to June 2019 he worked as Director of the Department of International Cooperation at the Ministry of National Economy, after which he was Director of the International Cooperation Department of Kazakhstan’s national bank, before coming to his current ministerial role.


Abdulla Khashimov (PhD) is a Minister of Investment, Industry and Trade of Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan

In parallel, he has represented Uzbekistan’s transport sector through ADB’s Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and the Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia programs and projects. Previously Abdulla has directed road design institutes, and been a manager of highways, Uzbekistan’s Charge d’affaires in China, adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Assistant to the Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, Chief Counsellor to the SCO Secretariat on International Economic Relations, and a department director at Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Investment, Industry and Trade.


Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of the Kyrgyz Republic, Kyrgyzstan

Yrysbek Baryev is a Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of the Kyrgyz Republic. With a background in transportation and communications, he graduated from the Kyrgyz Architectural and Construction Institute, and has degrees in economics and enterprise management. In his career Yrysbek has been Director of State Unitary Enterprises, and led transportation departments in the Kyrgyz government. His contributions have been recognized through awards such as the Honorary Diploma of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Kyrgyz Republic.


Head of the Foreign Economic Relations Division at the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations in Turkmenistan, Turkmenistan

Myrat Myradov is Head of the Foreign Economic Relations Division at the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations in Turkmenistan, holding a BA in Security Sciences, and with specialized training in strategic trade management policy. Myrat has extensive experience across legal affairs, management, and coordination, and has held key positions in both public and private sectors. Before his current role, Myrat worked as a lawyer providing legal support to businesses and defending their rights in arbitration cases.

Session 1: Unveiling New Markets


Founder and CEO of Nextrade Group, USA

Kati Suominen is the Founder and CEO of Nextrade Group that helps governments, multilateral development banks, and leading technology companies enable trade through technology, including promote ecommerce development around the world.  Nextrade’s more than 50 clients include the World Bank, IFC, IDB, ADB, USAID, UK FCDO, UPS, Mastercard, Visa, Google, and eBay, among many others. Dr. Suominen has ideated and built dozens of data and analytical products and pilot initiatives as well as eight global initiatives and public-private-partnerships to enable ecommerce development – including, most recently, the Alliance for eTrade Development between 16 leading companies and USAID to enable SME ecommerce in developing nations. and Prosper Africa Tech for Trade Alliance with 21 companies and U.S. government’s Prosper Africa initiative, to enable Africa’s trade through U.S. technology. She also ideated and helped build the UNCTAD- led eTrade for All initiative. She serves as Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Adjunct Professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Earlier in her career, she served as Trade Economist at the Inter-American Development Bank. Dr. Suominen is the author and editor of over 120 papers and 10 peer-reviewed books on trade, globalization and technology with leading academic presses, most recently Revolutionizing World Trade: How Disruptive Technologies Open Opportunities for All (Stanford University Press, 2019). PhD, University of California, San Diego; MBA, Wharton School of Business; MA Boston University, BA, University of Arkansas Little Rock.


Head of the Central Asia unit in the Eurasia division of the OECD Global Relations and Co-operation Directorate, France

Gregory Lecomte is Head of the Central Asia unit in the Eurasia division of the OECD Global Relations and Co-operation Directorate. He has more than 10 years of experience on economic policy advisory work with governments and has supervised or contributed to more than 20 OECD publications. Prior to joining the OECD, Mr. Lecomte gained extensive experience in the private sector, including in strategy consulting in Russia with Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. He also published various journal articles, focusing on economic transformations of post-Soviet countries. He holds a MPhil of Political Sciences (Post-Soviet studies) from Sciences Po Paris, and is a graduate of ESSEC Business School in Paris (MSc in Economics and Business), Université Paris Nanterre (MPhil of Public Management) and Université Paris-Dauphine (Applied Mathematics). Mr Lecomte speaks French, English, Russian.


Policy and Management Consulting Group – PMCG, GEORGIA

Mikheil Janelidze, a Trade Policy Sector Lead at PMCG, an Advisory Board member of Trade Intelligence and Negotiations Advisor (TINA), brings a distinguished career in international affairs and economic development, balancing public and private sector expertise. His role as Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Georgia (2015-2018) marked significant achievements. Strengthening ties with the U.S., EU, and major Asian nations, he bolstered economic and security cooperation. Georgia, under his leadership, became a leader in the EU’s Eastern Partnership, enhanced trade and security relations, and engaged in agreements with China, Japan, and India. Mr. Janelidze played a key role in implementing UN Sustainable Development Goal #16 and chaired the Open Government Partnership. Previously, as Vice Minister of Economy (2011-2015), he negotiated the EU-Georgia Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, elevating Georgia’s trade policies. He holds an MBA in Global Management and a bachelor’s in international relations.


JSC “Center for Trade Policy development “QazTrade”, First deputy CEO, Kazakhstan

Nurlan Kulbatyrov, deputy general director of the ‘QazTrade’ Center for Trade Policy Development, started his career in 2009 as a senior expert at the ‘Institute of Economic Research’ under Kazakhstan’s Ministry of National Economy. Subsequently from 2010 to 2016, Mr. Kulbatyrov served as a senior expert and then division head of the Department of Analysis of Investment Processes, and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Development of the Institute of Economic Research. He has held his current deputy director position at QazTrade from May 3, 2016.Since May 3, 2016, he was appointed Deputy General Director of the joint-stock company “Center for Trade Policy Development “QazTrade” under the Ministry of Trade and Integration.  


Director, International Institute of Central Asia

Javlon Vakhabov is an experienced diplomat and international relations expert, and has served as Director of the International Institute of Central Asia since December 2023. With a background in global economics and a master’s degree in international law, he began his career in Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Progressing through various positions, Javlon served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and has also been an ambassador to the U.S., Canada, and Brazil.


Senior Advisor, USAID TCA

Jeffrey Grieco serves as a Senior Advisor to the USAID Trade Central Asia Program. In addition, he currently serves as President and CEO of the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), having been elected to this position in May, 2017.  He served on the AACC Board since 2011 and was previously Vice President for Policy & Programs.  In addition, Mr. Grieco serves as an independent foreign policy and international trade & investment consultant with senior leadership roles within the U.S. government and multinational private sector.  He provides a unique mix of field experience within the foreign policy, national security, international business development, and international assistance areas.  Mr. Grieco represents major U.S. and multinational corporations in their international business and investment programming and associated governmental relations programming. He has represented such companies as Hyundai, General Dynamics, AT&T, Mazda, and Raytheon, Westinghouse ESG, to name but a few. Utilizing an extensive network of professional contacts, Mr. Grieco meets frequently with U.S. Administration and Congressional leadership and professional staff concerning international assistance and trade, especially as it relates to authorization (policy) and appropriation (budgeting) for U.S. assistance and related foreign policy and national security issues. He is a frequent speaker at major foreign policy, international trade and economic fora as well as national security and international stability and economic development events.  He has spoken on such diverse issues as Ukraine and U.S. assistance, health security and pandemic response, humanitarian assistance, stabilization of fragile states, Afghanistan withdrawal and private sector development. As a U.S. Senate-confirmed Presidential appointee he served as Assistant Administrator for Legislative and Public Affairs at the U.S. Agency for International Development/U.S. Department of State. Mr. Grieco managed all agency global communications, media and public affairs and managed U.S. Congressional relations through a particularly difficult period in the post-9-11 foreign policy environment.  In this role, he served as the Administrator’s official representative for all public and media affairs and public diplomacy activities involving USAID and was the agency’s lead public affairs representative at global UN conferences and other events dealing with USAID’s role in international development.  He also worked on the establishment of both the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as well as other Presidential and private sector initiatives.


Development Program Director of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Türkiye (TEPAV), Türkiye

Ekrem Cunedioglu has been the Development Program Director of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Türkiye (TEPAV) since July 2023, with expertise in designing analytical frameworks for projects and executing analysis processes. Ekrem is a graduate from the TOBB Economic and Technology University, the Özyeğin University, and the İskenderun Technical University. He first joined TEPAV in 2008, and remained there as a research associate through 2013, before founding his consultancy company in 2015. In 2018 he joined the PwC Government and Public Sector consultancy team as a manager, where he worked until 2020, before working at the Turkish Confederation of Employers’ Associations (TİSK) also as a manager until 2021. Up to mid-2023 Ekrem provided consultancy services to several national and international organizations across numerous projects covering multiple policy areas. He has also published several articles on employment, industry, and trade policies.


Head of the Almaty office of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC)

Dauren Ibraimov is serving as head of the Almaty office of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC). Previously he has held pivotal positions in prominent financial institutions, including the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and NRN Capital Advisers. He has expertise across the areas of asset management, treasury operations, and international finance.


CEO of the ‘M-Vector’ international research and consulting company operating in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan

Nail Khaybulin is CEO of the ‘M-Vector’ international research and consulting company operating in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, with offices in Osh (the Kyrgyz Republic), Khujand (Tajikistan), and Toronto (Canada). Nail has 12 years of management experience and 16 years of research experience, holds an MBA degree from the Moscow State university, and is a representative of the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).


Managing director of the Digital Kazakhstan Association, Kazakhstan

As managing director of the Digital Kazakhstan Association, Yelena Bychkova PhD has represented interests of Kazakh e-commerce companies for many years – specialising in legal regulation of the digital environment, including antitrust regulation of digital markets.Yelena has more than ten years of experience at Kazakhstan’s leading law firm AEQUITAS, and also five years in the legal department of digital company Kaspi.kz. She is a member of the Interdepartmental Commission on Legislative Work under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Expert Council under the Agency for Protection and Development of Competition of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the Committee on Trade of the ‘Atameken’ National Chamber of Entrepreneurs.Yelena participates in working groups on developing and discussing draft laws in the fields of business regulation, e-commerce and competition issues, while also engaging in projects with public sector regulators including the Ministry of Digital Development and Aerospace Industry and the Ministry of Trade and Integration. She participated in drafting the Digital Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and regularly engages in discussions of international acts and decisions of Eurasian Economic Union bodies. She has authored several scientific publications in the field of digital market regulation.

Session 2: Transport and Logistics Optimization


Secretary General of the Permanent Secretariat (PS) of TRACECA’s Intergovernmental Commission in Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan

Asset Assavbayev is Secretary General of the Permanent Secretariat (PS) of TRACECA’s Intergovernmental Commission in Kazakhstan. Asset holds a Master’s Degree in State and Municipal Administration from the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, and has over 18 years of professional experience in the transport sector. From 2004, Asset was part of the Transport Control Committee of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Transport and Communications, including being vice chairperson from 2010 to 2013, and chairperson from 2013 to 2014. He subsequently served as chairperson of the Transport Committee of the Ministry of Investment and Development from 2014 to 2019, dealing primarily with implementing transport policy, ensuring transport safety, developing road, railway and port infrastructure, and other related matters. Prior to being elected Kazakhstan’s TRACECA Secretary General in December 2019, Mr. Assavbayev was President of the Association of Road Builders of Kazakhstan and Independent Director of the Board of Directors of JSC ‘NС KazAvtoZhol’.


Director of the Department of Transport Policy at Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Transport, Kazakhstan

He began his career in 2003 at the ministry, where he sat on committees for road construction and transport control. Between 2004 and 2011 he worked at Kaztemirtrans JSC, before directing the project management department of the ‘Kaznex Invest’ JSC National Agency for Export and Investment. Subsequently from 2013 to 2014 he led KazExportGarant’s Astana Office, and from 2014 advised the Chairperson of the Board of the Kazakhstan Institute of Industrial Development. Between 2016 and 2017, Sapar was Deputy Chairperson of the Board of Kaztechnologies JSC, and was then Member of the Board and Director of Strategic Development at the NC Kazakhstan Engineering JSC. Between 2020 and 2021 he was an advisor to the Chairperson of the Board at N. Nazarbayev International Airport, and from July 2021 to May 2022 he was Deputy Director of the Transit and Logistics Center at Qazindustry JSC.


Team Coordinator at European Bank for Reconstruction & Development “EBRD,” UK

A seasoned senior port and free industrial zones expert with over 20 years of experience related to transport, port, and industrial zones development, management, and investment in over ten countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan. Turkey, Morocco, Netherlands, Oman, and Ukraine. Rony’s port expertise covers all aspects of master planning, design, management, operations, and consulting services.


Secretary General of Kazakhstan’s ‘Trans-Caspian International Transport Route’ association, Kazakhstan

Gaidar Abdikerimov PhD is Secretary General of Kazakhstan’s ‘Trans-Caspian International Transport Route’ association. As a graduate of both the ‘M. Tynyshpayev’ Kazakh Academy of Transport and Communications, and the Moscow State University of Railway Engineering, Gaidar has authored more than 15 scientific papers and co-authored the specialists’ textbook ‘Logistics Management of Freight Transportation and Terminal and Warehouse Activities’. Additionally, he has developed draft contracts for international transportation passengers, cargo and baggage, for international transport links, and for scientific and technical cooperation with foreign railway transport authorities and legal entities. Gaidar also managed JSC ‘NC KTZ’ offices in European CIS countries, and in Caucasus and Baltic countries.   


Operations Director, Batumi Sea Port

He graduated from Georgian Technical University and Batumi State Maritime Academy.  During the 33 years of work in Batumi Sea Port he held leading management positions in various production fields of port activity. He is experienced in transportation, logistics and port strategic planning. He participated in many international forums and working meetings on the Middle Corridor development. He is a participant of Intermodal Transportation and Logistics program conducted by SABIT head office. He represented Batumi Sea Port in promotion of transport projects on digitization and optimization of the port and transport system of Georgia such as Maritime Single Window and Port Community Systems.


Chairperson of the ‘NUR ZHOL’ company supervisory board, and of the board of the ‘KAzGrain’ national association of exports, Kazakhstan

Kanat Kobessov is chairperson of the ‘NUR ZHOL’ company supervisory board, and of the board of the ‘KAzGrain’ national association of exports, having more than 24 years of experience in the logistics field. He is a certified expert at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the UK Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) and the Kazakhstan Association of Independent Directors (QID), and also a board member of the ‘KIT’ Business Association of Entrepreneurs. On December 13, 2023, he was elected to the Public Council of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Transport, where he works towards developing and promoting Kazakhstan’s transport industry.


Uzbekistan-based road transport and transit specialist, Uzbekistan

Dmitry Chubenko is an Uzbekistan-based road transport and transit specialist, with more than 15 years of national and international professional experience. He has worked as a coordinator and export across a number of projects and initiatives conducted by international organizations, including IRU, UNECE, CAREC, ADB, TRACECA, GIZ, USAID, DAI, CIS, WB, SCO, and CLDP. He was also a focal point, private sector representative, for eTIR and eCMR implementation in Uzbekistan.


Director of Uzbekistan’s ‘TransTurkiston’ firm, a member of the Partnership for Transportation and Logistics in Central Asia, Uzbekistan

Abduvakhid Abduhalikov is Director of Uzbekistan’s ‘TransTurkiston’ firm, a member of the Partnership for Transportation and Logistics in Central Asia, and a graduate from both the Tashkent State University and the Tashkent Institute of Railway Engineers. Over a four-decade career, Abduvakhid has successfully implemented numerous projects for reconstructing and developing transportation infrastructure. He has been variously engaged by international organizations such as United Nations agencies, the European Economic Commission, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). Additionally, Abduvakhid has participated in USAID’s Central Asia Trade Forum, and regional logistics forums supported by GIZ.


CEO of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Central Asia office

Yerlan Absatov is CEO of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Central Asia office, and graduate of both the Karaganda State University and the Economic University of Kazpotrebsoyuz. Over 2008 to 2014 Yerlan worked at Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Transport and Communications, first as a chief expert of the Department of Road Transport, and then as head of the Department of Eurasian Integration. Subsequently he joined the Ministry of Investment and Development in 2014, where he was first Deputy Director and then Director of the Department of Integration. In 2018 Yerlan became Deputy Director of the Center for Industry Analysis in the Kazakhstan Institute of Industry Development, and then from 2019 to 2024 he was CEO of the ‘Kazlogistics’ Union of Transport and Logistics Organizations and Associations. In addition to being CEO of CILT Central Asia, Yerlan is also on the Board of Directors of the ‘Aviation Administration of Kazakhstan’ JSC, and of the Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport JSC.

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