Meeting with Governor of Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod Oblast Valery Shantsev

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Belarus and Nizhny Novgorod Oblast of Russia are set to raise the trade to $1 billion. This goal was set following the talks between Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and Governor of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast of Russia Valery Shantsev.

“Our interaction gives good results. In the economically difficult 2016 our trade increased by 7.3% and exceeded the $0.5 billion. Taking into account the opportunities, we believe that there are all preconditions for increasing mutual trade to the level of 2012. Back then we had trade at $800 million,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Taking into account the fact that Belarus and Nizhny Novgorod Oblast cooperate indirectly in some fields, the bilateral trade exceeds $750 million. The parties agreed that the bilateral trade should reach $1 billion. This task is real and feasible.

Belarus and Nizhny Novgorod Oblast have created a solid foundation for industrial cooperation. For example, the Russian region has facilities to assemble Belarusian elevators, Belshina’s trading house and dealerships of Belarus’ major engineering companies: Gomselmash, MTZ, MAZ and Amkodor. In turn, Belarus actively buys steel products, trucks, products of chemical industry from the Russian region.

To achieve even great results, the parties are ready to promote their cooperation. In particular, they discussed the interaction of Belarusian companies with the Russian automobile manufacturer GAZ Group, Vyksa Steel Works, Arzamas Machinery Plant and Peshelan Gypsum Plant.

In view of the Russian region’s ambitious housing and transport infrastructure plans, involving Belarusian specialists is seen as beneficial, the President believes. It is especially relevant in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup where Nizhny Novgorod Oblast will play an important role. Preliminary agreements have bee already reached.

The experience that Belarusian organizations acquired while cooperating with Nizhny Novgorod company Atomstroyexport during the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant may be applied to carry out other energy projects. “It is important for us to have many Belarusian companies involved in this process. None of them has been marred by incompetence. This means that we can construct nuclear power plants throughout the world and our services will be in demand,” the head of state is convinced.

Today many countries suffer from labor shortage. Belarus has an advantage here. The state has preserved vocational education system and advanced it to a high level. “We have had requests from a number of countries, especially from the CIS member states, to help them train skilled workers. I have been to Turkmenistan recently, and local authorities requested our assistance in setting up vocational education and training system. Some other countries asked Belarus to help update it,” the Belarusian leader remarked. “This is why we are happy that our workers and specialists are in demand. We have learned a lot. Now we are ready to join projects in any part of the world and construct similar or other objects in cooperation with Russia.”

Belarus also supports the region in the intent to increase the capacities of the agricultural sector. “We are ready to assist, as we did before, with the upgrade of husbandry farms, and can supply agricultural machinery and units. We are ready to work on a turnkey basis, if necessary,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The parties have developed strong humanitarian relations and collaborate in education, science, culture, healthcare, sports and tourism.

“I hope that the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast Administration will support all Belarus’ initiatives,” the President continued. “Our ties set an example for other regions. Belarus-Russia relations will be just as strong as our interregional ties.”

At the same time, the head of state stressed that against the backdrop of the positive trends there are various speculations from Russian TV channels. This information policy raises justified questions.

“Various speculations begin to emerge in mass media. They say that one has deceived the other, that we are begging Russia for some things, and so on. We have never gone down on our knees begging for anything. You know this perfectly well, we have known each other for decades. I would like to say to certain scribblers and TV hosts that Russian parts and raw materials account for 30-90% of all materials in Belarusian devices (tractors, automobiles, the entire machine building or chemical industry),” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

When we were developing the Belarus-RussiaUnionState, we took a decision to keep the existing economic ties. Finishing manufacturing remained in Belarus just like it was in the Soviet Union. Therefore, the economies of the two countries remained interconnected, the President explained.

“More than 10 million people are employed at Russian enterprises working for the finishing manufacturing in Belarus today. They make components, materials and other things. By supporting finishing production, we help at least 10 million people (or even 15 million). These people work in Russia,” the head of state emphasized. “It is clear that if there are any problems in Russia, Belarus and other countries connected with Russia will face the same problems. However, Belarus has stronger economic connections with the Russian Federation that any other country.”

Speaking about the loans to Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked: “We pay an interest rate of 4.5-6% per annum. We service these loans on time. You know how Russia’s money is placed in the U.S. Americans pay you 0.5% per annum. All countries take certain loans either from international organizations or from other states. Russia is not the main lender for us. The People’s Republic of China is the main one. It has opened a credit line of $15 billion for Belarusian projects. We have not used it in full yet. The main thing is that they do not reproach us for their help.”

The President stressed that the Russian government has a strategic approach to the relations with Belarus, and this is not a one-sided game. “Indeed, we have reached a true compromise. However, some people try to put a fly in the ointment, including, as I have been informed today, a popular TV channel in Russia TV Tsentr,” the Belarusian leader stated.

Some people in Russia also like to criticize the improvement of relations between Belarus and Europe. They say that Belarus is turning to the West. “No one needs us in the West. They already have such things that Belarus can offer. You also know how they see me in the West. Living in the center of Europe, we have to pursue this policy to protect the country, its security, sovereignty, independence and stability, to create normal living conditions for people. We cannot quarrel either with Russia or the West. This is our fate,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also stressed that Russians do not have nay problems in Belarus in terms of security and business. The situation, for example, in Ukraine is different.

“This is the response to those criticizing Belarus,” he continued.

When criticizing Belarus, they can mention that Belarus has two official languages and that we pay a lot of attention to the Belarusian language. “It is good that we remember about the Belarusian language. It is good that Belarusians have their own language. Why do they reproach us for it? By the way, the majority of people in Belarus speak Russian in everyday life, Russian is the language of communication here. But I underline that this language does not belong to Russia. This is our common language, and we have been developing it together for years. It is improving, developing as a living being. Together we have made a big contribution to the improvement of this language,” the head of state said. “We will never give up on it. We have our national Belarusian language. Many Belarusians living abroad speak it. Therefore, this situation is under control in Belarus.”

For his part, Valery Shantsev stressed that Belarus is Nizhny Novgorod Oblast’s biggest foreign economic partner among 143 countries. “Our trade and economic ties are incomparable,” he underlined.