Negotiations with Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev

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Belarus and Uzbekistan have renewed the bilateral relations in the past two years, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with his Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev one-on-one at the Palace of Independence in Minsk on 1 August.

“We are happy to welcome you here. Over the past two years we have fully renewed our relations. Actually we have created them anew. Over the past two years we have achieved much more than we did over the last 25 years of our relations,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to the President, the trade between the two countries (almost $160 million in 2018) does not meet the potential. He is confident that Belarus and Uzbekistan have big opportunities in the area.

On the eve the heads of state held a meeting at the Zaslavl state residence. Aleksandr Lukashenko revealed some details about the informal negotiations: “We were planning to dine at my home yesterday but instead devoted more than half of the time to our relations and particularly to the role of Uzbekistan and Belarus in the modern world, the developments happening around our states. To our surprise, we found absolutely similar trends: you are in the heart of Central Asia, we are at the center of Europe. Hence our advantages and our problems. We paid great attention to them yesterday.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that interregional cooperation is the major item on the agenda of the Uzbekistan President’s visit to Belarus. The parties have exchanged many visits at the regional level, organized a forum, an exhibition of Uzbek products, and the Culture Days of Uzbekistan. A monument to Uzbek poet Alisher Navaiy was unveiled in Minsk.

“All this creates serious content in our relations. It is important that the regional governors met each other and already signed a lot of agreements. Our job is to give a green light to business, which we did. Now the focus is on the implementation of the roadmap which was adopted by the governments of Uzbekistan and Belarus,” the President said.

During the meeting, the heads of state are set to discuss not only the advances in bilateral cooperation but also the shortcomings. “There are no closed topics in Belarus. There are no issues that we cannot solve. We can solve any matters together. Our economies do not compete with each other. They are complementary. The goods that we manufacture will find their customers in Uzbekistan. Everything that you produce will be in demand here. I think, we will have our place in the industrial and agricultural revolution that you have started in Uzbekistan,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted that this is the first visit of the Uzbekistan resident to Belarus in the history of bilateral relations. Its preparation was thorough by both countries. “All agencies show a serious mutual desire to cooperate. Now we need to talk over the points of growth where we can interact long term. They are many,”  he said.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that the talks with the Belarusian leader on 31 July were very informative, friendly. “We discussed the challenges and all that is happening in the world,” he said. In his view, decisions and agreements reached during the 25 years of bilateral relations are enforced and yield positive results. However, the potential has not been used to the full. “We should amp up the trade many times because there are all prerequisites for this,” the President said.

Revitalizing direct contacts between regions is one of the most important results of the visit, he believes. “The main achievement is that our regions started to cooperate. We should not hinder them but provide assistance instead. We have paved the way for their interaction,” Shavkat Mirziyoyev said.

The President emphasized Uzbekistan’s interest in establishing contacts with Belarusian companies. “We need cooperation. Over the years of its independence Belarus has made great headway in many areas. I always tell the government, the intergovernmental commission that we need to meet more often to create less paperwork and produce more results,” he added.

Today the leaders of the two states have a good opportunity to share views on a wide range of issues, including the international agenda, Shavkat Mirziyoyev said. It is of great importance for the two states as Uzbekistan lies in Central Asia and Belarus is located in the center of Europe. “The issues we are dealing today are similar,” the Uzbekistan leader said.

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Belarus and Uzbekistan are both interested in promoting a comprehensive dialogue.

“Belarus and Uzbekistan have always been bound by something bigger than just friendly relations. This is fellow feeling based on the values shared by our peoples, like hard work, love for land, striving for peace and creation. We have a packed agenda, many events related to the ongoing visit: the first ever Forum of Regions initiated by the Uzbekistan President, the Days of Uzbekistan Culture, a national expo of Uzbekistan products. Such a versatile program is a good testimony to our determination to promote a comprehensive dialogue,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President emphasized that more vibrant economic and humanitarian contacts between regions, companies and people will help deepen bilateral ties. Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that his last year’s visit to Tashkent resulted in adopting a roadmap to promote cooperation between the two states. This document features over 150 events covering the manufacturing industry, agriculture, pharmaceutics, construction, transport, and education. According to him, the agreements signed during the visit (19 documents in total) entered into force and are being implemented.

“I am convinced that today’s meeting will give an additional impetus to bilateral relations and will flesh out the bilateral agenda,” the head of state said.

Strengthening trade and economic ties is the number one goal in Belarus-Uzbekistan relations, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with his Uzbekistan counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

“The main goal is to strengthen trade and economic ties. Over the years of its independence, Uzbekistan has made considerable progress in diversifying national economy, developing new sectors such as mechanical engineering, petrochemistry, manufacturing of farm machinery. Belarus is ready to expand economic cooperation with Uzbekistan, including through joint investment projects,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to the Belarusian head of state, the trade has increased significantly in the recent years. The countries’ potential in the area, however, is still hugely untapped. “We can considerably increase mutual trade. Moreover, we think that our trade is some $200 million. However, if we count mediators, it will be almost $500 million, up more than two times. We need to bring order into the issue. This pertains both to Belarusian sales and supplies from your country. The demand for Uzbekistan’s cotton fiber, yarn, fruit and other countries is very high in our country,” he stressed.

During the Belarusian President’s visit to Uzbekistan in 2018, the parties agreed to set up several dairies with the help of Belarusian design and construction companies. There are plans to fit them with Belarusian equipment. So far, only one joint company has been set up in Tashkent Oblast, cofounded with Zdravushka Milk.

“We need to complete these three projects and build milk processing companies to sell not only within Uzbekistan but also to its neighbors, including Afghanistan. Perhaps we have some problems with financing these projects. Here, we also need to take a look at these projects. I think Shavkat Miromonovich [Mirziyoyev] you will also discuss these issues after the visit. We have already prepared the schedule plan for the delivery of 1,500 head of cattle to Uzbekistan in 2019-2020. We will depend neither on Hungary nor Europe. We will build these complexes and deliver cattle so that you knew whom to hold accountable,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President hailed vibrant cooperation in pharmaceutics. The parties are implementing three joint projects in Uzbekistan to produce dialysis sets to treat patients with renal insufficiencies, antibiotics and also antiseptic and sterilizing agents. Talks are underway to set up a united production platform of Belpharmprom Holding Company in Uzbekistan.

Light industry is another promising venue of cooperation. Belarus purchases large amounts of cotton yarn, knit fabric and apparel from Uzbekistan. “Belarusian companies can also export artificial fabric, knitwear, lingerie and hosiery. Our factories supply the law-enforcement bodies of the CIS member states with fabric and haberdashery. We seek closer cooperation with Uzbekistan,” the President said. He cited the production of footwear and sheepskin by Marko Holding Company in Uzbekistan as a good example.

Aleksandr Lukashenko named IT sector as a promising area of cooperation. He said that Belarus has been successfully developing information systems in areas such as public management, transport, financing and credit. Domestic companies have proved their competitive worth on the world market. “We suggest implementing projects in Uzbekistan to introduce an automated gas recording system with the Belarusian software and utility meters, upgrade and automate gas distribution and gas transportation networks. If these projects are okayed, we are ready to start working on them,” the head of state said.

“We suggest implementing an ambitiousproject to set up a complex to produce trucks, special-purpose vehicles, trailers, gas-powered buses in Uzbekistan. This production will have a high level of localization. MAZ is ready to join this project,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He added that gas-powered combine harvesters already passed trials in Belarus and showed great performance, for example, their maintenance costs are 40% lower. “We will go for it in Belarus. We would like our friends in Uzbekistan to follow suit,” the President said.

In his words, it is important to ensure effective implementation of Belarus-Uzbekistan projects. Not all the projects that had been discussed earlier have been implemented. “Maybe, there is nothing extraordinary about it. Therefore, we hold talks every year,” the head of state said.

For example, a factory to produce road construction vehicles, Amkodor-Agrotekhmash, was commissioned in Tashkent in 2018. However, it has turned out that there are issues with selling the products and including them into government programs. The presidents discussed this matter at a one-on-one meeting. “We need to team up to find solutions that will enable the factory to operate at its full capacity. Both countries are interested in it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Taking into consideration the production of MTZ tractors at Tashkent Agricultural Machinery Plant, Belarus suggests drafting a long-term cooperation project and setting up a joint venture. “We would ask you to allocate a land plot in Zangiata District, Tashkent Oblast, for setting up a service and maintenance center for tractors sold by MTZ dealer in Uzbekistan,” the President said.

Minsk Automobile Plant  has embarked on a project to open assembly factories in Uzbekistan. The plant cooperates with two private companies from Uzbekistan. “We would like to have the chassis certification issue resolved. I believe there will be no big problems,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted that the relations between the countries have been gaining pace especially rapidly in recent years. “Certainly regular dialogue at the highest level and our firm political will have played a decisive role in this. The results of your, Aleksandr Grigorievich, visit to Uzbekistan last year became truly groundbreaking in all avenues. New guidelines have been set for further practical cooperation. Most importantly is that we have created a favorable environment for the development of comprehensive trust-based mutually beneficial relations,” he said. “We have done a lot over the past few years. However, the potential and opportunities for our future work are huge,” he added.

The parties will shortly update the roadmap for cooperation between the two countries to formalize the specific assignments aimed at addressing the issues that were discussed during this visit, the Uzbekistan President said. In particular, this applies to the allocation of a land plot for an MTZ maintenance center, timely payments and financing of joint projects.  

According to him, Belarus' industrial giants such as BelAZ, MAZ, MTZ are well known in Uzbekistan. The produce high-quality and marketable vehicles. “We also have something to offer you. The intergovernmental commission should analyze thoroughly the trade flows and prepare specific proposals on ways of increasing the trade in the coming years. For the past two years, the trade has almost quadrupled. The pace is, of course, impressive. However, it is important to tap all reserves and balance the mutual trade,” Shavkat Mirziyoyev said.

Among the near-term priorities for cooperation is trade, uniform statistics standards in mutual trade. There is an interest in setting up joint clusters in agriculture and textile industry for joint development of the markets of third countries.

During the talks, the presidents discussed the prospects for cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union, industrial cooperation, technology exchange.  “We can offer you a large domestic market, and gateway to the most promising market of Afghanistan. Combining the efforts, Belarus and Uzbekistan might make a worthy contribution to the reconstruction of this long-suffering country.

Belarus and Uzbekistan have agreed to contribute in every way to the further development of bilateral relations, reads a joint declaration signed by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Minsk. 

The heads of state noted that the two countries shall develop multifaceted cooperation on the basis of long-term partnership, mutual benefit and respect for the interests of each other. They agreed to continue using the mechanism of regular meetings at the high and highest levels, constantly exchanging views and coordinating positions on key issues of regional and international agenda.

The parties are set to consolidate the practice of providing mutual support to initiatives and candidates within the UN and other organizations, continue to improve the activities within the framework of the CIS and the SCO.
The presidents welcomed the dialogue between the parliaments of the two countries, the fruitful activities of the joint intergovernmental commission and the positive trends in bilateral trade. They also highlighted the potential to increase the trade turnover. The parties expressed their interest in strengthening direct interregional relations and agreed to step up cooperation in various fields.  

Industrial cooperation and joint ventures are the priority areas of the Belarus-Uzbek interaction, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko told the media after the talks with Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Minsk. “Our countries have good prospects for increasing cooperation in engineering, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, transport industry, and IT sector. We should prioritize deepening industrial cooperation, setting up joint ventures, and providing the most favorable conditions for the exchange of goods and services,” the President noted.

According to him, the existing agreements were discussed and the prospects for further cooperation were outlined during the talks with Shavkat Mirziyoyev. “During the incomplete year since my visit to Uzbekistan, significant progress has been made in the relations between our countries. This was facilitated by a systemic interstate dialogue, including at the highest level. As my colleague suggested, the negotiations and meetings at the regional level will significantly revitalize our trade and will help increase its volume several times,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the 1st Forum of Regions of Belarus and Uzbekistan will become an effective platform for trade and investment cooperation.

“I sincerely welcome the successes of Uzbekistan. I absolutely understand the actions undertaken by the President to develop the country. The authorities are revolutionizing the industry, agriculture. It is not just upgrade of the country and the economy. These are new areas of life of the Uzbekistan society. Of course, this requires technologies,” the Belarusian leader stated.

The head of state noted that the technologies proposed by Belarus are available in other countries too. However quality, price, and responsible investors are as important. Addressing the Belarusian delegation Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I promised the President (who did not choose Americans, Germans, Russians or Chinese but Belarusians) that we will never let him down and that he will never regret that he made a choice in our favor. Belarusian technologies are sufficient to upgrade and create a foundation for development of Uzbekistan. They are available in other countries  too but we have offered good ‘price-quality’ ratio and highest responsibility for this cooperation. We must make good on our word.”

“We have discussed topical issues of the regional and global agenda. We have outlined cooperation plans as part of our work in the Commonwealth of Independent States. We have confirmed our determination to strengthen cooperation in order to fight terrorism, extremism, drug smuggling, other challenges and threats of our time, " said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

In his words, humanitarian contacts between the two countries are getting more vibrant. In 2018 Uzbekistan hosted the Days of Belarusian Culture, while in the run-up to the visit of Shavkat Mirziyoyev Uzbekistan artists presented their culture and traditions in Minsk. “As far as science and education are concerned, we have great potential for sharing expertise and knowledge, arranging academic exchanges and running training programs, implementing joint projects,” the President said.

The head of state added that a solid package of documents signed following the talks is aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation, first of all, business contacts and interregional ties, and at generating cooperation opportunities in investment, information, education and environmental protection.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that Belarus and Uzbekistan are strategic partners committed to strengthening bilateral relations. He also thanked the Uzbekistan President for his personal contribution to bilateral cooperation. “If not for your determination, we would have run around in circles for 25 years. Your will and resolution to make Uzbekistan a prosperous country not only by standards of Central Asia, but also the world, have encouraged us to go on with our cooperation,” the Belarusian leader said.

After having talks, attending a ceremony to sign international agreements, making a joint statement for the media and planting a tree in the Alley of Distinguished Guests, the two presidents headed for the exposition of Uzbekistan products.

Aleksandr Lukashenko studied the exposition, and Shavkat Mirziyoyev told him about the products that are on display. Uzbekistan producers had an opportunity to talk to the two presidents. They said that the first Forum of Regions gave an impetus to bilateral contacts and helped find new partners.

Representative of the IT sector noted that Uzbekistan has an IT park that is similar to the Belarusian Hi-Tech Park as far as preferences are concerned. This is believed to facilitate bilateral cooperation in the IT sector.

Touring the exhibition of Uzbekistan products, the two heads of state continued discussing bilateral ties, including cooperation in the manufacturing industry.