Business corridor expanded

Belarusian and Latvian businesses eager to enjoy mutually beneficial co-operation, as confirmed at Minsk-Riga Investment Forum

By Vladimir Levshunov

The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Latvia, H.E. Mr. Alexander Gerasimenko, notes that a promising area for mutual collaboration is industrial co-operation and the establishment of joint companies — such as Minsk Automobile Works’ assembly facility in Riga. He stresses that Latvia has plans to assemble Belarusian tractors and communal machinery.

Mr. Gerasimenko states that Latvia is an important transit corridor for Belarusian freight, while the port of Riga is the shortest route to the sea for Belarus. In 2010, an impressive 12m tonnes of Belarusian cargo were shipped via Latvia and almost half was sent via Riga’s Freeport. The issue of increasing cargo transit volumes through the port was high on the agenda during an official visit from Riga to Minsk, headed by the Deputy Chairman of Riga City Hall, the Chairman of Riga Freeport Andris Ameriks.

Latvia remains an important trade and economic partner for Belarus. Last year, bilateral trade reached almost $1bn, with the range of Belarusian export items to Latvia increasing. Moreover, 120 new joint ventures were established. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Latvia to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Mihails Popkovs, notes that Belarusian-Latvian economic relations have become increasingly dynamic, although the global financial crisis has affected certain areas to some degree — in particular transit. “Over all, our co-operation continues to develop. Last year, Latvian statistics showed that bilateral trade between Belarus and Latvia rose 10 percent, which suggests that we have overcome the negative impact of the crisis. We hope that this positive trend will consolidate in the future,” Mr. Popkovs adds.

Latvia is one of the largest investors in Belarus, injecting over $600m to date and the sphere of Latvian investors’ interests is wide. Recently, a large Latvian construction company won a tender to begin construction of a $100m hotel complex for the Hyatt hotel chain, near Komsomolskoye Lake in Minsk. Latvian IT companies are also actively operating on the Belarusian market, alongside firms offering logistical services and catering. Negotiations are underway regarding the opening of a Riga Freeport office in Minsk. “We believe that the level of investment co-operation between our two countries is yet to reach its limit; there is much untapped potential,” the diplomat stresses.

One of the promising areas for co-operation is the establishment of joint companies — a process which has been gaining momentum. Already, over 1,000 joint ventures operate in our two states. Among those being debated is a new, modern pharmaceutical company (using Latvian capital) — to be situated in the north of Belarus, bordering Latvia. There are also plans to set up a large Belarusian-Latvian logistics centre close to one of the border checkpoints. Another promising project is the creation of a facility in Riga to maintain and, probably, produce lifts (made in Mogilev). A joint project on constructing a large truck service centre near Minsk has already been launched.

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