Mr. Kalinin, there are all grounds to assert that our relations with Turkmenistan are developing dynam-ically. As Co-chair of the Inter-governmental Belarusian-Turkmen Commission on Economic Co-operation, you are among those Belarusian officials who often visit Turkmenistan, having been around 10 times over the past three years. Which issues have been on the agenda and what has been achieved?
Belarus views Turkmenistan as a major partner in Central Asia; accordingly, there are regular and close Belarusian-Turkmen contacts. Our two states’ heads — Alexander Lukashenko and Gurbanguly Ber-dimuhamedov — contribute a great deal to our interaction. Since 2009, their annual exchange of visits and agreements has created a good basis for mutual success, inspiring business circles to interact. Bel-arusian and Turkmen ministries and agencies are encouraged to seek out new paths of co-operation and to responsibly fulfil top level orders.
The Belarusian and Turkmen economies harmoniously supplement each other, ensuring dynamic growth of bilateral trade. 2013 was a record year, with bilateral trade of goods and services reaching $450mln (up from $50mln in 2008).
Sales of Belarusian machinery to Turkmenistan are a traditional avenue of our economic interaction. Belarusian tractors, trucks and road-and-construction machinery — all adapted to the hot climate — enjoy good demand in Turkmenistan; over 5,000 MTW tractors and 5,000 MAZ, Amkodor and MWTP vehicles operate at present.
Of course, to preserve our presence on the Turkmen market, we must expand and update our range of machinery. At present, various new models of combine, agricultural vehicles and passenger trucks are undergoing tests in Turkmenistan.
The local market is demonstrating demand for grain harvesting combines so, with this in mind, Belarus-ian Gomselmash OJSC has supplied two such vehicles for testing, with plans for delivery of 500 grain harvesting combines in 2016.
Belarus is working to optimise its service maintenance of machinery supplied to Turkmenistan, building a multi-function service centre for Belarusian machinery in Ashgabat. A regional network of service centres is being expanded and perfected, all equipped with the latest devices. Moreover, since 2010, over 400 students from Turkmen agricultural companies have passed productional internships at Minsk Tractor Works.
Belarus has significantly expanded its range of machinery and other goods, with Turkmenistan pur-chasing our bicycles, tyres, medicines, timber goods (such as furniture, plywood and paper) and foods (meat and dairy products, sausages and confectionery).
In 2011, a trading house opened in Minsk as a shop window for Turkmen products, with a similar retail outlet in Turkmenistan for Belarusian goods.
Much progress has also been achieved in the field of sci-tech co-operation and education.
The Garlyk mining complex is a landmark event for our economic ties. Can you tell us more?
Its construction has cost $1bln: the contract signed with Turkmenistan has been a major Belarusian ex-port deal in the sphere of industrial construction. The facility comprises two complexes (and 138 indi-vidual sites within the facility): an above-ground ore-processing factory; and an underground mine, reaching down over 300m.
Over 1,800 people have worked on the site, including around 500 Belarusians, and 16 Belarusian and 10 Turkmen construction organisations have been involved.
In August 2015, the basic productive potassium layer was uncovered and, at Belgorkhimprom JSC’s pi-lot facility, potassium concentrate was produced from sylvinite ore mined in Turkmenistan, with 120kg of potassium fertilisers dispatched to Turkmenistan as an example.
The Garlyk mining complex in Turkmenistan will become a recipient of Belarusian machinery and con-struction materials, while promoting future contracting work, with significant economic effects.
What needs to be done to ensure a close relationship between our nations and economies?
Belarus and Turkmenistan already use a wide range of instruments to this end, including visits at vari-ous levels, joint projects, liaisons between trading houses and the organisation of exhibition-fairs.
Humanitarian contacts have huge potential, and are being actively developed. Our Days of Culture are already a tradition, as is participation in conferences, seminars, subject Olympiads and sporting compe-titions, hosted by Belarus and Turkmenistan.
It’s true that we need to seek out new avenues of co-operation and interaction in the healthcare sys-tem. Turkmenistan is demonstrating interest in Belarusian transplantology experience and our country is ready to share this expertise.
Collaboration in the railway sphere could become a new vector of our trade-economic ties, with par-ticular reference to updating rolling stock, and designing new sites of Turkmen railway infrastructure. Belarus boasts huge experience in this field and has great industrial potential.
We have proposals for the Turkmen oil-and-gas complex too. Belarus’ Fidmash has supplied coiled tubing equipment and equipment to enhance oil recovery in Turkmenistan, including controlled angle drilling.
What results do you expect from the National Exhibition-Fair?
In December 2014, Belarus successfully hosted the National Exhibition Fair of Belarusian Goods at Ash-gabat’s Chandybil Trading House. Meanwhile, in October 2014, Minsk’s cultural, sports and entertain-ment complex, Chizhovka-Arena, hosted a fair of Turkmen goods, attended by President Berdimu-hamedov. These two events indicate that Belarusian goods enjoy great demand on the Turkmen mar-ket and Turkmen manufacturing is popular in Belarus.
Within the intense dynamics of Belarusian-Turkmen economic co-operation, our country was recently represented in Ashgabat, for a major exhibition-fair, held at the Sergi Kosgi Exhibition Palace, on De-cember 11th-13th.
The Belarusian pavilion occupied around 3,000 square metres, hosting leaders of Belarusian machine building, chemical, food and light industries, as well as wood processing, and producers of construction materials and medicines. There were also companies providing services — such as communication and tourism.
Our Belarusian universities presented their scientific achievements and educational services as part of the event, while our Belarusian producers displayed a range of goods available now to Turkmen buy-ers, including those sold by the Belarusian-Turkmen Trading House and Turkmen dealerships for Bela-rusian enterprises.
Performances by leading Belarusian artistic troupes and singers created a cultural atmosphere, while some talented folk masters held master classes.
I’m convinced that our country’s exhibition in Ashgabat will enhance business contacts between Bela-rusian and Turkmen companies, while attracting attention to new products on offer from Belarusian manufacturers. It should contribute to the signing of agreements for further Belarusian sales to the Turkmen market.
Will the National Exhibition-Fair help define vectors of further co-operation?
The construction of embassies in Minsk and Ashgabat indicates our countries’ desire to build long-term relations. As regards the global goals of the forthcoming fair, we hope to achieve political targets, showing Belarus’ eagerness to sustain and strengthen bilateral relations with Turkmenistan, while strengthening and further developing mutually beneficial trade-economic ties.
We also have economic goals in demonstrating Belarus’ trade-economic potential. We want to estab-lish business contacts, while attracting attention to the latest goods produced by Belarusian enterpris-es, to drive sales.
We want to promote our nation’s reputation as a producer of high quality goods and services, enhanc-ing ‘Made in Belarus brand recognition and demonstrating possibilities for mutually beneficial co-operation.
Our humanitarian-scientific goals include promoting Belarusian sci-tech developments on the Turkmen market and demonstrating Belarusian cultural achievements.
I’d like to add that life doesn’t stand still. New ideas, products, scientific developments and cultural achievements are emerging constantly in Belarus and Turkmenistan. I’m convinced that other projects will be initiated in future, to enrich our relations, with new examples of fruitful co-operation. Im-portantly, we enjoy a strong foundation, with time-tested friendly relations between our Belarusian and Turkmen nations. These enable us to look to the future with optimism.
By Ivan and Valentina Zhdanovich