During a visit to Tashkent, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross hailed the Uzbek government's commitment to democratic reforms and called for close partnership between the world’s biggest economy and Central Asia’s most populous country.
Ross held talks with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev and addressed the American-Uzbek Chamber of Commerce Business Forum on October 23 as part of his Central Asian tour.
"I want to applaud the successful political and democratic reforms that are under way in Uzbekistan and to encourage your continued commitment to them," Ross said in his speech at the forum, according to a transcript posted on the U.S. Embassy’s website.
Mirziyoev, who came to power in 2016, has taken some steps to improve ties with the West and its neighbors and move away from the oppressive policies of his predecessor, Islam Karimov.
While praising many of the efforts, rights groups have continued to express concerns about free speech, censorship, and prosecutions of journalists in the country of 32 million.
U.S. President Donald Trump “commended President Mirziyoev’s efforts to build bridges and relationships between Uzbekistan and its neighbors," Ross said.
The secretary of commerce added that the United States was “absolutely committed to being a strategic partner in your growth and development, through trade, investment, and your outreach to other nations in Central Asia."
After Uzbekistan, Ross traveled to neighboring Kazakhstan, where he met with President Nursultan Nazarbaev on October 24, according to the Kazakh presidential press service.