Azerbaijan-Russia interregional forum mulls economic perspectives
Baku hosted the 9th Azerbaijan-Russia interregional forum, aimed at developing trade, economic and humanitarian ties between the regions of the two countries, on September 27.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin attended the official opening ceremony.
Addressing the expanded meeting of the Azerbaijani-Russian and Russian-Azerbaijani business councils as part of the forum, Azerbaijan’s Economy Minister Shahin Mustafayev said that the country is interested in further increasing trade and investments with Russia.
The minister noted that the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia is based on mutual respect and good-neighborliness at the level of strategic partnership.
He went on to say that Azerbaijan and Russia are experiencing positive dynamics of the development of bilateral trade.
Russia is one of the main trade partners of Azerbaijan and comprehensive measures have been recently taken to diversify the trade turnover, Mustafayev said.
So far, Azerbaijan has invested over $1 billion in the Russian economy, while Russia has invested over $4 billion in the Azerbaijani economy, he said, adding that 760 companies with Russian capital operate in the country.
Mustafayev further noted that Azerbaijan intends to open wine and trade houses in the Russian cities of Yekaterinburg, Astrakhan and St. Petersburg.
The Azerbaijan-Russia Business Council is ready to actively cooperate with the subjects of Russia, Council Chairman Samad Gurbanov said at the meeting. “We are very pleased to be ready to establish contacts with all the subjects of the Russian Federation, as well as to stimulate the interest of Azerbaijani business circles in investing in these regions,” Gurbanov noted.
He added that a number of major projects in the regions of Russia have been recently implemented by the members of the Council and with its direct assistance. “Azerbaijani company Karat Holding commissioned a sanatorium-resort center in the Russian city of Yessentuki, and the amount of investments was $25 million,” Gurbanov said. “In addition, the Azerbaijani group of companies ATEF became the first foreign resident of the special economic zone “Lotus” in the Astrakhan region. The value of investments is about $18 million.”
Addressing the forum, Russian Minister of Economic Development Maksim Oreshkin said that Russia is working to reduce barriers in cooperation with Azerbaijan.
Following the meeting, the business councils of Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement on cooperation. The document was signed by chairmen of the Azerbaijani-Russian and Russian-Azerbaijani business councils Samad Gurbanov and Alexey Repik on the sidelines of the forum.
Speaking at the forum, Alexey Repik underlined that the Russia Azerbaijan relations are the ties of strategic partners, which cover different spheres of the economy.
The Azerbaijan-Russia Business Council was established in 2016. The main goal of the council is further deepening of ties in the spheres of economy and mutual investment between Azerbaijan and Russia, as well as cooperation between businessmen. To this end, the Azerbaijan-Russian Business Council closely cooperates with a similar organization of Russia, the Russia-Azerbaijan Business Council, and systematically holds joint meetings of business councils with the participation of businessmen.
The previous meeting of the Azerbaijan-Russia and Russia Azerbaijan business councils in expanded format was held in December 2017.
The forum continued its work with round table meetings.
Speaking at a round table meeting “Industry and Energy: Prospects of Bilateral Cooperation”, Shahin Mustafayev stated that Azerbaijan’s non-oil economy is expected to grow at least 10 percent in 2019.
In his speech, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Economy Minister Niyazi Safarov said that relations between Azerbaijan and Russia in the fields of energy and industry are developing successfully. There are good examples of bilateral cooperation in these spheres, he noted.
The deputy minister stressed that the Azerbaijani economy is developing very intensively and it has grown more than threefold over the past 15 years. “Investment relations between Azerbaijan and Russia are developing intensively,” Safarov said. “Azerbaijan has invested more than $1 billion in Russia’s economy, and Russia has invested more than $4 billion in Azerbaijan’s economy.”
Azerbaijan’s Deputy Energy Minister Samir Valiyev, in his turn, said that interested countries can join the North-South energy corridor project, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Energy Minister Samir Valiyev said.
“We believe that it would be good to build a new power transmission line to strengthen cooperation with [Russia],” the deputy minister said. “The negotiations are underway in this direction. This project will serve to the creation of a new North-South energy corridor.”
He recalled that the deputy ministers of Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran met to discuss this issue, and a relevant protocol was signed. “This is a very promising direction,” he added.
Shahin Mustafayev also addressed a round table meeting on “Strengthening of Cooperation in the Field of Transport and Transit Transport”. He informed that a new highway from Baku to the Russian border is planned to be built until 2020.
Aide to the President of the Russian Federation Igor Levitin, speaking at the meeting said that the Russian government calls on Azerbaijan and Iran to solve the issue of connecting their railways as soon as possible in order to increase cargo transportation along the North-South transport corridor.
“The North-South transport corridor cannot work in parts. I should also note that we must improve the work of customs and border checkpoints. We must also unify digitalization efforts. We need to create a single digital consignment note along the North-South corridor, which will be accepted by all countries,” Levitin said.
The Russian presidential aide noted that “North-South” member countries need to think about the more active use of sea transport.
The International North-South Transport Corridor, a 7,200 kilometer-long freight route connecting India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road, is meant to connect Northern Europe with Southeast Asia. The main objective of the INSTC is to provide an alternative to the traditional routes carried out by sea through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea.
At the initial stage, it is planned to transport 6 million tons of cargo per year through the corridor and about 15-20 million tons of cargo in the future.
The cargo will pass through the territory of India and further through the Persian Gulf, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia towards the Scandinavian states and Northern Europe in just 14 days.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is already used for transit from the countries of Central and South-East Asia, cargoes to Russia are also moving along the North-South corridor, which currently connects Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia and has prospects for extension to India and the countries of the Persian Gulf.
As part of the forum, a round table meeting on the development of cooperation in the field of tourism was also held.
The Russian market was and remains the most priority market of the tourism industry in Azerbaijan, chairman of the Azerbaijani State Tourism Agency Fuad Nagiyev said at the meeting.
The statistical data confirm this, he said. So, in January-February 2018, Azerbaijan was visited by more than 600,000 tourists from Russia, which is 20 percent more compared to the same period last year, and the positive dynamics for the last period of the year is preserved.
The head of the agency also noted that Russian tourists always feel comfortable in Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijani citizens feel no less comfortable within the Russian Federation.
Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation Oleg Safonov in turn said that the number of incoming tourists from Russia to Azerbaijan increased by 17 percent at the end of 2017.