By Vasily Velikhov
A swap agreement worth $3bn was signed with Beijing back in 2009, called a breakthrough in our two states’ relations by experts — especially taking into consideration the instability of the global financial market. However, the mechanism is yet to become operational — due to lack of experience and excessive caution from Chinese partners regarding the use of Yuans in foreign trade turnover and to sluggishness from Belarusian officials. A recent sitting of the Council of Minister’s Presidium has now set measures in place for the coming months, to help change the situation.
The pace of Belarusian-Chinese trade co-operation has outstripped all expectations, with the goal of raising volumes of mutual trade to $2bn fulfilled two years ahead of time; in 2010, our turnover stood at $2.5bn. From January-May 2011, Belarusian-Chinese trade in goods and services reached $1.2bn. However, the Government is eager to improve on this further.
Belarus’ Deputy Prime Minister, Anatoly Tozik, tells us that documents are now being prepared to create favourable conditions for the successful realisation of several major investment projects, with the establishment of a Belarusian-Chinese industrial park being the largest of them. At least $1bn of direct Chinese investments should be attracted; an intergovernmental agreement is due to be signed this September.
Belarus is also to construct Lebyazhy residential suburb, using Chinese funds. This year, the building of a five-star hotel complex and multi-purpose information, trading and business centre — called China Town — is to begin. The Chairman of Bellegprom Concern, Gennady Vyrko, has announced that, soon, representatives of Chinese companies are to arrive in Minsk to negotiate investments into the modernisation of Orsha Linen Mill and the linen branch as a whole.
Some existing joint projects are being realised more slowly than was hoped, so are to be facilitated, including those in the transport sphere and relating to Minsk National Airport’s development. At present, over ten major projects are underway with the participation of Chinese partners, whose credit support stands at $4.5bn. Not long ago, Minsk’s TPP-2 was launched after modernisation, with TTP-5 now almost ready. New technological lines for cement production are being installed, while the Chinese are also to invest in developing Svetlogorsk Cellulose and Cardboard Plant.