U.S. President Joe Biden met with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan at the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September 2023.
Perhaps the most surprising point of discussion was the proposed launch of a C5+1 Critical Minerals Dialogue. Critical minerals like chromium, copper, and lithium are needed for manufacturing clean energy technology.
Central Asian countries – especially Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – have great potential to leverage their mineral resource bases for geopolitical gain, especially as the United States is eager to shed its dependence on China for minerals. China currently dominates the global critical minerals market, and it is the largest source of imports to the U.S. for 26 critical minerals. A C5+1 dialogue focused just on mineral wealth stands to be mutually beneficial for all participants.
“We are committed to deepening cooperation to develop the capacity to meet growing global clean energy demands, including by potentially providing the world with safe, secure, and sustainable nuclear fuel supplies. Our attention to energy security in the region includes building diverse, resilient, and secure critical minerals supply chains; developing new technologies for the extraction and processing of raw materials; and adding value through regional industrial cooperation to reduce strategic dependencies and meet our respective economic, energy security, and climate goals. Demand for critical minerals, which are essential for clean energy and other technologies, will expand significantly in the coming decades. To further develop Central Asia’s vast mineral wealth and advance critical minerals security, we will launch a C5+1 Critical Minerals Dialogue. It will provide a forum in which the C5+1 can share information about critical minerals challenges and opportunities, promote connections between government officials and private sector industry, catalyze investment, and collaborate on critical minerals supply chains.”
However, it’s not a done deal yet. Biden noted only that “we are also discussing the potential for a new critical minerals dialogue.” Given the importance China also attaches to the critical minerals sector, close cooperation with the United States may be politically difficult for Central Asian states.