Export requires new mechanisms to support competitiveness
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Guryanov said that the attenuation of the Br exchange rate has been exhausted for the Belarusian exporters. “To increase sales in foreign markets they have to rely on other mechanisms”.
Mr. Guryanov noted 2011 was rather successful for Belarus in terms of foreign trade balance. The foreign trade balance in goods and services in 2011 was negative amounting to USD 1.64 billion, while projection was minus USD 5.7 billion. The Belarusian exports compared to 2010 increased by 56.1%. Exports increased by USD 46.6 billion. However, “the effect of the devaluation of 2011 has been exhausted. Stability in the foreign exchange market should make exporters to rely on other factors”, Mr. Guryanov said. “Other” factors in his opinion include: increasing of export volumes, as well as supply of new products. However, his words sound rather like a mantra as the Belarusian export increasingly focuses on raw materials (potassium and petroleum products account for over one half of total exports), the country is losing its traditional markets and the proportion of new and innovative products in the overall production is decreasing. Belarusian companies are increasingly losing to their Russian and Ukrainian rivals.
Mr. Guryanov believes that by the end of 2012 Belarus could really come to a positive trade balance of USD 1.5 billion. In his view, this could be achieved due to the lack of excessive demand for passenger cars (main trend of the first half of 2011), reduced gas prices and better conditions of Russian oil supply, as compared with 2011. Whether these expectations and assumptions are backed up by real calculations, is a serious question.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.