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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.