Economic diplomacy: results of 2008

AT THE MEETING WITH HEADS OF FOREIGN INSTITUTIONS WHICH TOOK PLACE TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO, THE PRESIDENT OF BELARUS FORMULATED PRIORITIES OF BELARUSIAN DIPLOMACY. THE PRIORITIES INCLUDED EXPORT AND MULTIPLE-VECTOR FOREIGN POLICY. THEY REMAINED UNCHANGED. THESE ARE PERMANENT NATIONAL INTERESTS MENTIONED BY LORD PALMERSTONE, THE BRITISH MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, IN THE 19TH CENTURY
AT THE MEETING WITH HEADS OF FOREIGN INSTITUTIONS WHICH TOOK PLACE TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO, THE PRESIDENT OF BELARUS FORMULATED PRIORITIES OF BELARUSIAN DIPLOMACY. THE PRIORITIES INCLUDED EXPORT AND MULTIPLE-VECTOR FOREIGN POLICY. THEY REMAINED UNCHANGED. THESE ARE PERMANENT NATIONAL INTERESTS MENTIONED BY LORD PALMERSTONE, THE BRITISH MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, IN THE 19TH CENTURY.

In March 2009 the Collegium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summarised foreign economic activity for the year of 2008. The MFA acted coordinator in this sphere. The results turned out to be good which gave rise to the discussions of the future. The world economic crisis affected the faraway world countries and this year will be a more difficult one for Belarusian exporters (the heads of enterprises were invited to the Collegium). What can be done about it? Presence of Sergey Sidorsky at the meeting testified on the importance of the issue…

“Economy is the best policy” says a postulate of Belarusian diplomacy. Belarus is a country with one of the most open economies in our region and abroad. It means that the major part of the national goods is exported. Consequently, economy depends on the promotion of services and goods of the “Made in Belarus” brand to the world markets.

Rephrasing a famous aphorism, we can say that foreign policy is a concentrated form of foreign economic activity. Last year the task of export increase was fulfilled. Export amounted to 33 billion US Dollars (increment amounted to 35 per cent in comparison with 2007) at the total foreign trade volume of 72 billion US Dollars. Talking about success, the sales of Belarusian goods to Ukraine (the third trade partner after Russia and the European Union) increased almost twice and reached 2.8 billion US Dollars. Negative tendencies related to the world crisis became evident in winter.
In January 2008 the foreign trade volume amounted to 5 billion US Dollars. This January the figure was smaller. Comparing December 2008 and January 2009, we can notice the significant decline in export and import. The beginning of the year is not the time for economic activity. Probably, we shouldn’t dramatize. In January export to Germany increased by 10 per cent. Undoubtedly, it’s a positive tendency. The German Federal Republic is an important western trade partner of Belarus.

Sergey Martynov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced the necessity to preserve export markets for Belarusian goods in the crisis period. How can we solve these problems? Firstly, we can do it at the expense of creation of foreign assembling and service center networks of Belarusian equipment. We have to increase export of spare equipment parts. This is an effective and profitable business direction.

In the opinion of the Minister, it is important to diverse Belarusian export goods by their nomenclature and geography.

Sergey Martynov noted the necessity of further simplification of administrative and technical procedures in foreign trade. This announcement was made in the tideway of Belarusian economy liberalisation.

Sergey Sidorsky, the prime-minister, highlighted several issues. He confessed that he was going to use certain criteria estimating the activity of Belarusian ambassadors abroad: export dynamics, amount of investments.

Attraction and effective usage of foreign investments is one of the main directions of economic cooperation with foreign states. Investments influence the process of reforms. That is why it is important to estimate possible negative and positive consequences of the investments attraction, to work out the investment policy meeting the interests of the state, providing overcoming of crisis and achievement of perspective goals. During 2008 foreign investors put up 6.5 billion of US Dollars into the real economy sector (excluding banks), which is 20 per cent more than during 2007. The main investors were Russian market participants (33 per cent out of all investments), Switzerland (19 per cent), Great Britain (11 per cent).
The prime-minister paid attention to the issue of equal access to the markets as it is of great importance for Belarus in the sphere of interaction with the main international partners. The lion’s share of Belarusian trade falls on Russian and the European Union. The necessity of usage of all instruments was underlined.

Sergey Sidorsky thinks that we shall reconsider the concept and content of exhibitions of Belarusian goods abroad. We must demonstrate the goods if there are real perspectives of their realization or attract the investments and innovative technologies to Belarusian manufacture development.

The Chief of the Cabinet Council appealed to the diplomats to be attentive in tracing the content and realisation of anti-recessionary programs by the governments of other states in order to provide effective interaction in the foreign economic sphere. We have to be organized and attentive in order to timely occupy the available markets.

Igor Kolchenko
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