Uzbek President Islam Karimov has signed a law on Uzbekistan joining the free-trade zone of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Uzbek media reported the move on December 28. It makes Uzbekistan the ninth CIS country to join the zone, although Tajikistan has yet to ratify its membership.
The free-trade agreement frees Uzbekistan from paying many import duties and tariffs on goods coming from other CIS countries, including the CIS Customs Union, which currently comprises Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus but which should also see Armenia and Kyrgyzstan being admitted next year.
Uzbekistan's decision to join the free-trade zone marks a slight change in government policy as Tashkent has resisted joining other CIS groupings and has twice withdrawn from the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Based on reporting by Interfax and Rossiya 24 TV