Working visit to Russia

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Inter-regional cooperation is one of the key factors of raising the sustainability of national economies of Belarus and Russia, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the plenary meeting of the 2nd forum of regions of Belarus and Russia in Sochi on 18 September.

The Belarusian President emphasized that in spite of the difficulties related to the global crisis the contacts between the two countries have expanded significantly. For instance, in January-August 2015 36 regional delegations from Russia visited Belarus. Belarus’ representatives, in turn, visited 21 Russian regions. Such business contacts produce the economic effect in the implementation of joint projects.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that he always tries to find time for the meetings with the delegations of Russian regions to discuss future plans. In H1 2015 the President met with the heads of eight Russian regions. “Such one-on-one meetings help highlight our achievements, reveal drawbacks and use the existing colossal potential,” he said.

Belarusian and Russian regions maintain productive cooperation in various industries. Belarusian products sell well in Russia. “High quality, affordable prices are Belarus’ competitive advantages. Our country is ready to increase the delivery of products in the future,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He also stressed that Belarus’ trade with Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tyumen Oblast, Smolensk Oblast and Moscow Oblast is bigger than the trade with many foreign countries.

According to the Belarusian President, the Union State should be the core of the Eurasian Economic Union. “It is necessary to utilize the integration potential as much as possible. By accomplishing these tasks Belarus and Russia will manage to give a strong impulse to the integration of countries and nations, to step up interaction between regions and individual enterprises.”

The situation in the world showed that both Belarus and Russia are affected by external factors, the Belarusian leader noted. “Because of the instability in the euro zone, fluctuations of the Chinese yuan exchange rate on the global stock markets it is needed to revise the economic policy. Today it is especially important to consolidate our potentials in the Union State and the Eurasian Economic Union in general. In our opinion, the coordination of efforts in the manufacturing sector which can be supported by the formation of the single industrial policy plays a crucial role. The main objective of this policy is to diversify national economies, create new production facilities and develop the human potential,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian leader stated that new times have not brought salvation from cataclysms, crises and wars to the mankind. “Once again the rule of force instead of rule of law prevails in the international scene. Spheres of influence are being reshaped on the global scale. However, egoistic ambitions, designs and interests are not worth sacrificing human lives for. Heads of state, public figures and nations themselves should remember it,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“The world is slowly starting to recognize the futility of sanctions and, moreover, the isolation of individual countries and the pressure of military threats. We have always opposed such methods,” stressed the Belarus President.

Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested taking a number of concrete measures in this direction and said that it is needed to begin with the need to provide equal conditions to economic operators on the common market of goods and services. “It is needed to step up efforts to eliminate existing barriers and restrictions in trade which make bilateral cooperation less attractive and marginalize the idea of integration,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

Apart from that, he deems it necessary to step up efforts to protect the common market, including from “grey import”, deepen the specialization of manufacturing organizations, expand technological cooperation, and implement more investment projects together.

It is also possible to make new products which can replace imported analogues. “We need to devise a comprehensive and balanced approach aimed at uniting scientific, material and investment resources for the structural upgrade of the manufacturing sector and prioritize the development of science intensive industries,” the Belarusian leader added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed confidence that these steps will help promote import substitution, stimulate export oriented companies and bridge the technological gap with western countries.

“All talks about Belarus’ possible U-turn, turn away and so on have to stop,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. He explained that the issue had been raised by some Russian mass media. “We are not going to come against anyone. We are intent on building smooth friendly relations just the way the Russian Federation does it today,” continued the President.

“Don’t chide us for making some turns. There is no one for us to turn to. We will always stay together with you,” concluded the Belarusian head of state.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also touched upon Belarus’ accession to the WTO. The head of state pointed out that Kazakhstan’s latest arrangements with the WTO, the customs duties the two sides have agreed on have created a real problem for the operation of the economic union. “We are forced to adjust to what the WTO and Kazakhstan have come up with. It will not be easy because the customs duties have opened the floodgate to the possible flow of merchandise to the Russian market and the Belarusian one,” noted Aleksandr Lukashenko. Nearly all the industrial enterprises are threatened, he added.

In turn, Belarus has resumed talks with the WTO. “But we are in no rush to join the WTO,” noted Aleksandr Lukashenko. In his opinion, it is necessary to analyze the situation. “Belarus may benefit more from staying outside the World Trade Organization. Naturally we may feel pressure designed to convince us to reduce the customs duties even more but such a move would destroy the entire economic union,” stressed the President.

“We have stopped to accurately study the situation in order to avoid such mistakes. We would like our partners and colleagues to be aware of that,” said the Belarusian leader.

On 18 September Presidents of Belarus and Russia held a bilateral meeting.

“Our state and I personally value the relations between Belarusian and Russian regions, between regions and Belarus,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President noted that Belarus and Russia keep an eye on all issues in the bilateral relations and value positive moments. “Of course, we understand what is going on around us. We also have to deal with a number of issues, therefore we gather together at such events,” Aleksandr Lukashenko continued.

“I always thank Russian regions. Some time ago Russian regions saved our Belarusian-Russian relations. If we had not maintained cooperation with them, it would have been very hard to retain the relations which we had had in the Soviet Union. That was a very difficult period of time after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” the Belarusian leader reminded.

The President of Russia, in turn, noted that Belarusian-Russian relations develop very successfully. “Certainly, there are some matters that require our close attention, close scrutiny but, on the whole, I would like to note that we achieve the goals we set out to achieve,” said Vladimir Putin.

“We also know about the problems connected with today’s economic issues in the world and in our countries. We understand what is going on. We know what has to be done. Not everything turns out perfectly, it is only natural, but we will confidently go ahead. I have no doubt that all of these difficulties will be overcome,” concluded Vladimir Putin.

Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin also visited the Sirius education center in Sochi.

Aleksandr Lukashenko was given a tour of the center. The President learned about the system of education in such centers and left a note in the distinguished visitors' book. An agreement was reached that some 20 Belarusian children selected through a competition will be studying at the Sirius center.

Besides, Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin attended the join Belarus-Russia expo of industrial products held as part of the Second Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia. Import substitution and industrial cooperation between the two countries were the main topics of the event. The Belarusian Industry Ministry, the State Military Industrial Committee, OAO Belkommunmash, and the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus showcased Belarus’ achievements in science, machine building, petrochemical industry, and healthcare.