Moving Forward

Belarus, Russia plan to beat last year’s trade record
Minsk Tractor Plant, or MTZ, is the largest company of the kind in the CIS and Eastern Europe and one of the few Belarus’ billionaires, the companies that annually export commodities worth more than $1 billion. Over the seven months of this year MTZ made about 30,000 tractors, of them 28,000 were exported. These two indicators rose a couple of dozen per cent on the year each. Russia is the main importer. So far this year, over 10,000 tractors were sold to the eastern neighbor, an increase of 40% over the seven months of 2005.

This is a typical example: Belarus’ large and smaller companies all boost exports to Russia, the main trade partner. The largest exporters besides MTZ are Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ) and Belarusian Automobile Plant (BelAZ). Other exports include furniture and foodstuffs, clothes and footwear. Imports from Russia are on the rise, too, the key commodities being natural gas, crude oil, automobiles and engines. These two “commodity rivers” flowing in the opposite directions reached a record high of over $9 billion in the first six months, almost a 34% increase over the same period in 2005.

If this tendency continues, Belarus and Russia will hit the all time record of $16 billion. This does not happen by itself, though. Belarus has adopted an export development program for 2006–2010, which envisages the creation and development of commodity distribution networks of the country’s largest producers. President Alexander Lukashenko called export one of the country’s key priorities during his meeting with Belarus’ ambassadors. This strategy seems the only right way for the comparatively small Belarus to remain competitive on the world market with its export-oriented industry, the key asset. The figures prove that Belarus’ strategy has been efficient so far. For the first time ever this country’s foreign trade turnover reached $19.4 billion in the first half year, a rise by a third over January–June 2005.

A bit less than one half of these exports was to Russia, the largest business partner of this country. Other large outlets include the Netherlands, the UK, Ukraine and Germany. Belarus has a stable trade surplus with all the CIS countries, save for Russia, and foreign non-CIS states, which allows investing in the upgrade of the national economy and strengthen the national currency.

Vladimir Yakovlev
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