Belarus and Saint Petersburg have plans to ramp up trade and economic cooperation
Belarus and Saint Petersburg have plans to ramp up
trade and economic cooperation
The Belarusian head of government assured Saint Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko of Belarus’ strong commitment to deepening the comprehensive cooperation with Russia’s northern capital across all areas of mutual interest, including trade, economy, investments, science and technology and humanitarian activities and culture. The parties have already made much headway in these fields. The steady growth of the bilateral trade is a testimony to that. In 2010 the trade between Belarus and Saint Petersburg amounted to $1.3 billion, up almost
Saint Petersburg has long been Belarus’ important and reliable trade and economic partner. Business, manufacturing, humanitarian and cultural links between the parties get even stronger year to year. in 2010 alone, the trade between Belarus and Saint Petersburg reached $1.3 billion, up 29.2% from the previous year. however, the parties are convinced that many more cooperation opportunities have yet to be explored. Belarus’ delegation led by Prime Minister of Belarus Mikhail Myasnikovich took part in a recent session of the Belarus-saint Petersburg Business Cooperation Council to discuss promising cooperation projects, expansion of the bilateral trade and rebranding on the international market.
30% over 2009. Belarus’ export soared by 42.5% to $828.6 million, the import went up by 9.8% to $440.8 million. Belarus posted a foreign trade surplus of $387.8 million. Belarus’ major exports to Saint Petersburg were foodstuffs, including fresh, cooled and frozen beef, poultry, pork, cheese, cottage cheese, etc. Belarus’ major imports from Saint Petersburg were ferrous scrap, equipment for metal heat treatment, tobacco and its industrial substitutes, metal products, etc.
In January-april 2011, the bilateral trade maintained momentum: it rose by almost 45% over 2010 to $510.9 million. The export totaled $318.6 million (up 30.3%), the import made up $192.3 million (up 76.9%). Belarus’ foreign trade surplus was $126.3 million.
Despite the impressive figures, Belarus and Saint Petersburg have a considerable untapped potential to deepen the bilateral cooperation, Mikhail Myasnikovich is convinced. In his view, the efforts should be primarily channeled into the investment field. The parties have amassed considerable experience in running joint investment projects. Thanks to them, modern facilities to manufacture Belarusian machinery have been set up in Saint Petersburg, while our country has assimilated state-of-the-art Saint Petersburg technologies.
The Belarusian head of government still warned against complacency. The two parties can find even more areas of common interest. Belarus, for example, seeks Russian investments into the pharmaceutical industry. Our country is willing to consider all cooperation forms – from simple investing to setting up joint ventures. Every year Belarus spends hundreds of millions of dollars on foreign medicines. In the shortterm perspective Belarus is going to considerably cut down on drug imports, and the Saint Petersburg expertise and knowledge might be of great use to our country.
The parties are highly interested in other high-tech fields as well, including information and communication technologies. To materialize the plans, participants of the session made the decision to draft a separate sci-tech and investment cooperation program. This program envisages, among other things, the establishment of a research and production base to carry out joint transnational projects.
Belarus has invited the business community of Saint Petersburg to take part in its privatization program, which offers a great outlook for the two parties. About 250 Belarusian companies are slated for privatization, including those in the construction industry, light industry and agribusiness. Belarus gives preference to the Customs Union member states and expects a more proactive stance and greater enthusiasm from Russian companies.
“We invite business circles of Saint Petersburg to take part in the privatization program. We are open to most ambitious proposals,” Mikhail Myasnikovich said. He reassured the Russian partners that privatization will be honest and open. Belarus is willing to cooperate with those business circles that strictly abide by the social partnership principles. People’s problems should not be marginalized giving way to profit making.
Belarus and Saint Petersburg give a special priority to manufacturing cooperation. Belarus took part in the construction of enterprises to produce small-size tractors, elevators in Saint Petersburg. The construction of a trolleybus assembly facility is nearing completion. The Business Cooperation Council decided to boost and expand these productions. The two parties will keep working on joint manufacturing projects. Belarus, on its part, is ready to do its utmost to bring these projects into being.
Besides, Belarusian companies could offer beneficial contracts to Saint Petersburg to supply machines for the city’s needs. Belarus seeks to compete on equal terms with other producers for municipal tenders. In return, it could offer reliable machines and mutually acceptable payment schemes.
One of such projects could be the design and production of the so-called hybrid trolleybuses that can travel without overhead wiring. This will help reduce traffic jams. Besides, these trolleybuses are eco-friendly and have an improved design. This autumn the new trolleybuses will be tested in Russia’s northern capital. If they pass the test, Saint Petersburg is ready to negotiate new contracts to purchase them.
“We have come up with a program to introduce new types of passenger transport which will be more advanced and innovative. We have put forward these requirements to our Belarusian partners. Belarusian specialists are ready to start testing this type of vehicles as early as this year. We eagerly purchase Belarusian trolleybuses as well as buses, tractors and other machines. They are competitive and have a good quality,” Valentina Matviyenko said.
Saturating the Demand
A key area for attention at the session was cooperation in the food industry. Belarusian products earned an excellent reputation in Russian regions long ago, including Saint Petersburg. There our dairy products, cheese and cottage cheese are extremely popular. These products have become a traditional treat for many Russians. The Saint Petersburg Government supports Belarusian producers and helps Belarusian food companies to make their way to Russian customers. Every year municipal and district authorities of Russia’s northern capital allocate fair sites and additional shopping space for Belarusian
companies to get a stronger foothold on the Russian market.
The construction of chain stores Belorussky Gostinets (the Belarusian Gift) in Saint Petersburg is expected to boost the supplies of foodstuffs from Belarus to Saint Petersburg. Eight stores have already opened, another twelve are due to open by the end of the year.
“The project will make it possible for Belarusian manufacturers to ship their products to Saint Petersburg without any mediators and markups. The city administration has already allocated plots for such stores. The projects will be completed in two or three years,” Valentina Matviyenko said.
Mikhail Myasnikovich, in turn, emphasized Belarus’ interest in delivering more food and new types of food to Saint Petersburg. This will require new forms of work, including more active use of logistic centers. At least 35 logistic centers will be built and commissioned in Belarus before 2015. Under the logistics development program, 23 investment projects are implemented in Belarus to construct logistic centers at 22 sites out of 50 designated ones. The total investments in the projects are estimated at over Br3 trillion. This year three new centers have been inaugurated in Belarus, including Minsk-beltamozhservice, BrestBeltamozhservice and Twenty-four. The first phase of another two logistic centers will be completed this year: Logistic Center Prilesie, Belvingeslogistic as well as the second phase of Blt-logistic. Their potential can be successfully utilized while exporting agricultural products to Russia, including Saint Petersburg.
In general, the head of government believes that the demand for Belarusian products in Russia will be growing. Belarus is ready to promptly respond to this trend and satisfy the demand.
In January-april this year, export of certain agricultural products from Belarus to Saint Petersburg rose significantly. For example, the supply of fresh and chilled beef rose by 83%, or by $18.3 million, that of pork was up 3.2 times ($8.7 million), meat and poultry edible offal doubled to $6.8 million.
“Our food products have a high reputation on the market of Saint Petersburg. They are in demand, which confirms their high consumer properties and quality”, said Mikhail Myasnikovich.
The Prime Minister drew attention to the fact that given the current economic situation, it is increasingly important for Belarus to step up export for the sake of additional hard currency revenues. The head of government stressed that Belarus is indeed dealing with certain economic difficulties, but crisis is not the word to use.
“The economy is functioning, enterprises are working, and export is increasing. There is a real chance to improve the balance of payments. The stabilization loan from the EURASEC Anticrisis Fund will not be used to artificially restrain the exchange rate. We will be treading carefully. We need to restore confidence in the currency.”
In turn, Valentina Matviyenko said that Saint Petersburg is ready to support Belarus in the current economic situation.
“Saint Petersburg has a special attitude towards the Belarusian people. We empathize with the economic issues you are all facing today. I believe that the Belarusian people will cope with these problems and the situation will stabilize. On our part we are willing to lend a helping hand to our Belarusian partners,” she said.
From Joint Ventures Towards International Alliances
According to the Saint Petersburg Governor, industry, trade, energy, agriculture and housing construction are the priority areas for further economic cooperation between Belarus and Saint Petersburg. Special attention, in her opinion, should be paid to new, innovative projects to develop science-intensive high-technology competitive enterprises.
“Today, it is important to establish joint ventures and make globally competitive high-tech products. We are open to projects of new times, a new era. We are well positioned to succeed. And we do not doubt the reliability of our Belarusian partners,” she said.
The Prime Minister of Belarus supported this idea. Belarus and Russia are working on similar projects already. For example, MAZ and KAMAZ truck producers are now working on a project to set up a holding company Rosbelavto. According to Mikhail Myasnikovich, it is time Belarus and Saint Petersburg moved from simple trade to more complex forms of cooperation – creation of transnational alliances.
Belarus now seeks to join international corporations to expand the geography of its exports. The government is now looking into a possibility to set up large national companies and integrate them further into transnational alliances. The world is globalizing and integrating commercial, industrial and intellectual capital into a single system. Belarus intends to get actively involved in these processes. The integration should be comprehensive covering the manufacturing industry, science, and services sector.
“Simple commodity cooperation is a good thing, but it has no future. We must unite into multinational corporations to produce new goods. I think that here we have good prospects,” the Prime Minister said.
In particular, one of the first major joint projects may be the production of LED lamps. Belarus and Saint Petersburg could work together to create such a manufacture on the basis of the light-emitting diodes facility that operates in Saint Petersburg.
Besides, Belarus is interested in implementing another ambitious project in the northern capital of Russia, namely a project to set up a joint high technology park. Mikhail Myasnikovich suggested thinking over this project and also providing preferential conditions for its residents.
By the way, scientists of both countries have vast experience of cooperation in such areas as development of new materials, bio and nanotechnology, IT industry, energy, medicine and pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, machine tool industry and many others. Research institutes and centers of Belarus and Saint Petersburg have worked together to develop new nanomaterials, structural and functional elements based on them, resource-saving ecofriendly technologies in processing and storage of food raw materials, new production technologies based on processed peat, sapropel, and other mineral raw materials. Collaborative research was conducted in the field of theoretical and applied electrical engineering, intelligent information technologies using aerospace data.
Today, scientists in Belarus and Saint Petersburg pursue quite ambitious scientific goals. They are set to develop intelligent systems and advanced tachographs for the transport sector, new technologies for forestry and road transport, highprecision navigation systems for agriculture, a technology for accelerated reproduction of breeding animals for agriculture, a new series of sanitary and hygiene materials and products for healthcare.
It would be easier to solve many of these and other problems in joint scientific associations – industrial parks, research centers and academic alliances.
Of particular interest for Belarusian scientists is cooperation in nuclear energy. In 2017 Belarus plans to put into operation the first unit of its own nuclear power
plant. It will be built to the Russian NPP-2006 project developed by the Research and Design Institute Atomenergoproekt (SPBAEP), which is part of the Rosatom State Corporation.
While in Saint Petersburg, Mikhail Myasnikovich visited the institute where he talked about cooperation between Belarusian and Russian experts on the nuclear power plant construction project.
Executives and leading experts of SPBAEP told the Prime Minister of Belarus that the project is distinguished by the advanced security and techno-economic characteristics and is fully compliant with international standards and IAEA recommendations. Prototypes of the Belarusian nuclear power plant include the Baltic nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad and Leningrad NPP-2, which uses the solutions tested at the Tianwan NPP in China, the first two units of which were built by Russia and have been in operation since 2007.
The Belarusian NPP will be outfitted with four duplicate safety system channels, a fusion localization device, a double shell for the reac- tor’s building, a system to remove hydrogen, systems for passive heat dissipation. The installation will be able to survive an earthquake of seven points on MSK-64 scale. It will use a water-cooled power reactor, which safety has been confirmed by many years of accident-free exploitation.
SPBAEP plans to send the technical documentation of the preparatory period to the Glavgosexpertiza audit institution in September this year. Earthwork operations to build the foundation pit for the Belarusian nuclear power plant are to start in autumn 2011.
Mikhail Myasnikovich noted that Belarus would like the NPP construction project to run on schedule. Belarus and Russia have already defined the basic principles of financing the project, from the construction of the nuclear island to engineering infrastructure. Belarus has decided against a Russian loan to finance the construction of social facilities. These works will be financed by Belarus itself.
Now the sides are finalizing the contract and loan agreements to build the nuclear power plant. Belarus expects to borrow $6 billion to $7 billion from Russia.
Today, Russian specialists are helping Belarusian counterparts to develop a national strategy for radioactive waste treatment. This strategy should include a range of research, development, design work and the organizational and technical measures to create the infrastructure for previously accumulated radioactive waste and for waste that will be generated during the operation of the future nuclear power plant. The strategy may be implemented within the framework of the Union State program “Decontamination and reprocessing of radioactive waste produced during the operation of the nuclear power plant”. Russian experts are ready to assist Belarus in addressing these issues because they are interested in constructive cooperation with the Belarusian side.
It is expected that in the future bilateral Belarusian-russian partnership, including partnership with Saint Petersburg research institutes and centers, will be expanded. This applies both to the construction of the nuclear power plant and nuclear industry personnel training.
Promising areas of economic cooperation were discussed
at a meeting of the BelarusSaint Petersburg
Business Cooperation Council, which was held in the northern capital of Russia on 23 June 2011.
Belarus trolleybuses are increasingly popular in Saint Petersburg
Belarusian cheese is in high demand in Saint Petersburg, as well as in other
Belarus` proposal to establish a joint High-tech Park was welcomed by participants of the meeting of the BelarusSaint Petersburg Business Cooperation Council.
Executives and leading experts of SPBAEP informed the Prime Minister of Belarus that the Belarusian NPP
project is distinguished by the
advanced security and techno-economic characteristics and is fully compliant
with IAEA recommendations