Regions set the pace
The first forum day impressed even its organisers, with huge attention from the media, and a great turnout
The first forum day impressed even its organisers, with huge attention from the media, and a great turnout. Participants were busy across nine sections, representing most avenues of co-operation. The Council of the Republic, hosting talks by chairs of the Belarusian and Russian Upper Chambers of Parliament, received most attention. Mikhail Myasnikovich and Valentina Matvienko stressed that regional co-operation is increasingly evident and showing good results.
During plenary session of 3rd Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia
“The forum enjoys a major commercial component, with at least $300m of export-import contracts expected to be signed,” the Chairman of the Council of the Republic, Mikhail Myasnikovich, comments. “This indicates that we have more potential to be explored.” The Chair of the Council of the Federation, Valentina Matvienko, agrees, saying, “Our co-ordinated actions, in term of industrial and agricultural development and joint investment projects, continue. Despite existing problems, actual volumes of mutual trade between our countries have preserved.”
Integration is important to Belarus from the point of view of strengthening its open economy and providing sales markets. Preservation of Russia as a global geopolitical partner depends on successful inter-relations. At the same time, Belarus and Russia are building economic relations with third countries, without harming each other. On the contrary: they wish to benefit from their bilateral co-operation.
Experts say that our two states’ level of motivation is evident in such phrases as ‘import substitution’, ‘investments’, ‘new technologies’, ‘social orientation’ and ‘law unification’, which have been heard much at the forum. In particular, speakers of the Upper Chambers have agreed to continue working on rapprochement of legislation in the field of labour relations, education and healthcare. We desire to lift restrictions to mutual trade, although Ms. Matvienko believes that reporting of the problem may be exaggerated. She notes, “In touring Russian regions, I commonly see shops with ‘Products from Belarus’ posters. Your food enjoys great demand in Russia, alongside light industry manufactures.”
Mr. Myasnikovich has remarked, “Of course, it’s not easy for our economies at present; external factors don’t help and these can be softened only by uniting efforts. We need to be less affected by protectionist decisions and build a true single economic space, without restrictions or exemptions.”
Participants of the 3rd Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia left Minsk pleased, having concluded contracts and agreements worth dozens of millions of Dollars. A plenary session followed meetings between heads of Belarusian and Russian regions with Prime Minister Andrey Kobyakov, and speakers of the Council of the Republic and the Council of the Federation, Mikhail Myasnikovich and Valentina Matvienko. The plenary was dedicated to the Union State’s co-ordinated social-economic policy, focusing not only upon successes but upon unsettled issues. Among key problems hampering the promotion of inter-regional co-operation, Mr. Myasnikovich named the falling number of established joint ventures.
He stressed, “A fall of even 6 percent is accompanied by lost jobs and lost state revenue. The establishment of joint companies — including with the participation of residents from third countries — is a priority for our co-operation. China and India could become major partners in this area.” Another proposal from Belarus dealt with the de-Dollarisation of mutual settlements. The time has come for our governments and state companies to shift to using national currencies in export-import operations.
Ms. Matvienko also spoke of financial problems, underlining, “The Union State’s budget is not being fully utilised. We’d love to see more interesting initiatives and promising projects from governors. We also need to introduce a common visa for the Union State; this is especially important to encourage tourist flow.”
Overall, the forum’s results met expectations. Belarusian constructors are to build a metro line in Chelyabinsk and, this year, the Sakhalin Region will be buying our apples. By late 2016, the region will have imported around 250 buses and communal machinery from Belarus, and the list of agreements goes on...
By Vladimir Velikhov