Huge potential for co-operation
Union State’s Council of Ministers makes range of important decisions to strengthen Belarusian-Russian integration
On September 29th, Moscow hosted the Union State’s Council of Ministers session, with over three dozen issues of Belarusian-Russian collaboration across various areas. Its work was led by the heads of our Belarusian and Russian governments: Andrei Kobyakov and Dmitry Medvedev. They discussed the present level and character of economic and sci-tech co-operation of our two states, while outlining prospects for development. Important decisions were made, aimed at expanding collaboration and enriching it with new focuses.
Belarusian-Russian turnover was high on the agenda: an issue especially sensitive, since Russia is Belarus’ major foreign trade partner, accounting for almost 50 percent of the country’s exports. Although Belarus occupies just a small share in Russia’s foreign trade turnover, it remains ahead of many, behind only the strongest economic powers: China, Germany and Italy.
Not long ago, our mutual trade exceeded $40bln but, in the first seven months of 2015, it has dropped (against the same period of 2014) by almost 25 percent. Mr. Kobyakov is concerned by this state of affairs, proposing steps to expand mutual trade, including through substitution of imported products with domestic manufactures. He explains that many Belarusian goods rely on at least 50 percent Russian components and materials; up to 70 percent of components for MAZ trucks derive from Russian imports. Accordingly, expansion of production is profitable for both Russian manufacturers and the Belarusian state.
Mr. Medvedev views the situation from another angle. Assessing mutual turnover in Russian Roubles, the sum is 20 percent higher. Moreover, mutual trade has not fallen in terms of weight or volume. According to the Russian PM, the further development of our trade-economic co-operation relies on lifting barriers to market access between our two states. Mr. Medvedev believes the potential for co-operation is great and that Belarusian-Russian trade-economic relations are multi-sided and diversified. Session participants discussed and approved a balance of mutual supplies for the most important products, deciding that Belarus may receive loans in 2016, to purchase components, with a schedule of staggered repayments.
Further development of co-operation in the economic sphere depends greatly on the formation and realisation of a single industrial policy by our states. The topic was high on the agenda, in addition to a single transport and energy system and migration space. These issues are vital to the Union State development; the outlining of corresponding decisions may take time but the results will be significant.
The problem of a single industrial policy was recently discussed at the 2nd Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia — held under the aegis of the two states’ upper chambers. A plan of decisions has been studied by our prime ministers, as have proposals to lift the ‘permission system’ for automobile cargo transportation to (and outside) the third states. Draft joint actions to counteract terrorism are also under scrutiny and Mr. Medvedev has proposed a single visa for the Union State. Many issues discussed at the Council of Ministers’ session will be further debated at a sitting of the Union State’s Supreme State Council.
Belarus and Russian are liaising in realising mutual sci-tech programmes, with the Union State’s Council of Ministers taking some key decisions. Four major projects have been completed in recent years, with results approved. For example, the Standardisation-SG programme has made it possible to significantly strengthen the normative base of co-operation in the field of satellite development and use. Overall, 68 joint standards have been developed and 12 organisational-methodical documents have been approved, enabling our two states to use a single technical language. In addition, the Microelectronics programme has brought production of 62 new microcircuits, eight new transistors and 16 stabilisators, able to operate under extreme conditions (such as enhanced space radiation). The Union State has created a real alternative to imported products.
Among two approved Union State sci-tech novelties are those relating to Auto-Electronics. In the coming three or four years, these should become a major joint project for the Union State. Around 2bln Russian Roubles will be used to produce micro-electronic components for the system of transport management, enhancing vehicles’ safety — including ecological. Leading Belarusian and Russian automobile companies are interested in these studies: MAZ, KAMAZ, BELAZ and GAZ. The programme is likely to bring their produce closer to international quality standards.
As part of the Council of Ministers’ session, several Russian heads were awarded top state awards. The Chairman of the State Duma and the Union State’s Parliamentary Assembly, Sergey Naryshkin, received the Order of Glory. Meanwhile, the First Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, joined the Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Dvorkovich, in being awarded the Order of Nations’ Friendship. On behalf of the Belarusian President, those awards were presented by PM Kobyakov.
By Vladimir Fiodorov
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