Aleksandr Lukashenko meets with Bashkortostan President Rustem Khamitov

    Belarus and Bashkortostan should put more efforts into advancing joint projects in the area of industrial cooperation, President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with President of the Republic of Bashkortostan Rustem Khamitov on 14 June.

    The President of Belarus stressed that apart from selling and buying merchandise Belarus and Bashkortostan are beginning successful projects in the area of industrial cooperation. “It is important to thoroughly support the endeavors and work on new avenues,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

    He emphasized that Bashkortostan has a considerable economic, manufacturing and research potential and has solid ties with Belarus. Bashkortostan is Belarus’ top trading partner among regions of the Volga Federal District and the fifth largest trading partner among regions of Russia. In more than ten years the bilateral trade has increased by over 15 times to exceed $1.4 billion in 2011.

    The bilateral cooperation is mutually complementary. Belarus exports household appliances, processing industry products to Bashkortostan and imports petrochemical and metallurgical products. “To satisfy the demand of relevant branches of your economy Belarus is ready to expand the range and volume of shipments of the necessary industrial products,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    Speaking about the promotion of industrial cooperation between Belarus and Bashkortostan, Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized: “We should strive to turn out a joint product that will sell not only in Bashkortostan but in third countries in the future”. He believes it is particularly topical in view of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space that are bringing about new opportunities to develop these areas.

    The Belarusian President said that cooperation in research to practice and innovations was an important and promising avenue of cooperation. He underlined that Belarusian scientists are well aware of Bashkortostan’s research potential and are ready to implement joint projects, particularly in mechanical engineering, energy saving, medicine, molecular biology, and information technologies. The Belarusian head of state said he was confident that the visit of the Bashkortostan President to Belarus would give an impetus to the development of these areas, too.

    Bashkortostan is ready to boost trade and economic cooperation with Belarus, Rustem Khamitov said.

    He stressed that companies of Bashkortostan have solid ties with Belarus and the mutual trade is on the rise.

    Rustem Khamitov said that the delegation of Bashkortostan visited a number of Belarusian enterprises and got familiar with the manufacture of trolleybuses, trams, wagons for commuter trains. "We have already decided on the cooperation variants. This will be a good step, for instance, towards setting up joint companies," Rustem Khamitov said.

    The official believes that Belarus and Bashkortostan need to enhance cooperation in chemical and petroleum chemistry and chemistry . He said that Bashkortostan draws a lot of attention to the development of the chemical industry. “We are going to host an international forum which is named downright “Great Chemistry” and we would like to invite representatives of Belarusian enterprises to participate in it so that we could establish contacts in this branch,” Rustem Khamitov emphasized.

    He stated that cooperation in machine building is developing, too. Belarus helped Bashkortostan organize a production of mini-tractors which are in demand. Gomselmash co-manufactures trailed reapers in Bashkortostan.

    Bashkortostan is also interested in Belarusian grain and forage harvesters. There are good prospects to establish joint assembly plants. According to Belarus' Industry Minister Dmitry Katerinich it is essential to focus on the localization of Belarusian equipment manufactured in Bashkortostan to make it more competitive.

    According to Rustem Khamitov, Bashkortostan also needs Belarusian lumbering and woodworking equipment.

    Moreover, the President of Bashkortostan also suggested discussing exports of metal-cutting machine tools, helicopters and fire engineering equiment to Belarus.

    Rustem Khamitov said that some 12,000 Belarusians live in Bashkortostan. There is the Belarusian culture center in Bashkortostan. He believes that it is necessary to boost cultural ties and be more active in exchanging cultural delegations.

    “I think we have come to terms about a lot of things. There is a spirit in these relations. It is worth a lot because these are turbulent times and are sometimes difficult to understand. Occasionally ambassadors fail to grasp what is going on and their interviews border on interference in internal affairs of this or that nation. And it is their job to understand things. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that our relations can be damaged by anyone,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    The meeting touched upon a large number of matters ranging from the promotion of contacts in culture and sports to plans for manufacturing cooperation, cooperation in agribusiness, petrochemical industry. Privatization of Belarusian assets was mentioned, too. “I would like you to know that we are ready to cooperate with you on the most democratic principles if it is possible in economics. If privatization goes on, only a round table and negotiations are possible. But if Russia fears that our common market of the common customs space will be filled with some cheap products from other countries, they should not have created it in the first place. We have just created it and now statements are being made that destroy this common economic space,” the Belarusian President stated.

    “We created it in order to walk tall so that we could always protect ourselves, protect our manufacturers, protect our people, so that everyone could operate on equal terms in this common economic space. This is why all the documents set out to give equal rights and opportunities to small and big countries. It is inadmissible when one country achieves something only for other Single Economic Space states to start pressuring it,” the head of state remarked.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined: “We know what competition is, what market is all about and don’t want to go ahead with privatization the way it was done in Russia in the 1990s”. Aleksandr Lukashenko said privatization of an enterprise should be decided through negotiations. “Here are our terms, they are understandable, here is the price for the enterprise. If you do not like it, stay home. This is why Belarus will have privatization but our way. We will decide what we should privatize, when, at what price and on what terms,” the Belarusian head of state said.

    Speaking about MAZ-KamAZ merger prospects, Aleksandr Lukashenko said he had discussed it with the President of Russia. “Prior to talking to the ambassador one has to clarify things. We reached a solid agreement that if we combined assets, it would be done as 50 and 50, with relevant administration. But the management of that corporation is unhappy about the 50-50 rule it seems. They need the controlling interest and the price Belarus asks is high. Well, if it is expensive, let’s work the way we do now. Today MAZ is as good as KamAZ. It sells well not only in the CIS but in Russia, too,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said competing with KamAZ was not the idea. “There is space for everyone. If you want it, let’s divide our markets. But if you enter the WTO and you change views, we should recall that we have agreed that the Single Economic Space is sacred. If we lose something because of your accession to the WTO, you should think about ways to support us. Everything should be done fairly. Otherwise, we will destroy the normal economic process and even the political one that began after the election of Vladimir Putin, who has told us a lot about it. Only fair relations . No other !” the President noted.

    “Whether we fall or not, whether we survive another crisis without Russian money is open to debate. We are now getting warnings that Belarus will not survive a crisis. I would like to once again remind about the financial crisis that we have survived… By the way, the crisis happened when production growth was high. I would like to remind you that prices for energy resources had been raised by nearly 400% within five years. No economy could have survived such a blow. And it should be remembered we are building a common union state," Aleksandr Lukashenko believes. “Another thing. Once we started talking about raising car import prices in order to protect Russian automakers, our people exported up to $3 billion to Germany and other countries in order to import junk cars. That was the reason instead of ineffective management or some system,” the President said.

    “I would like to note that we believe that privatization and other matters are not about economics only. Big politics is involved as well. This is why one shouldn’t make mistakes about it,” the Belarusian head of state stressed.

    As for the introduction of the Russian ruble as the national currency in Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “For me Belarus is sacred just like Russia is. Our relations are sacred whatever money we may use. We have Belarusian rubles, you have Russian ones. If we decide so, we can find ways to get a currency to work in Belarus and Russia. It is not a catastrophe that we do not use Russian rubles today”.