Foreign trade of Belarus slumped in February
According to the National Statistics Committee, foreign trade deficit in late February 2015 was USD 108.7 million, while in January 2015 foreign trade surplus was USD 242 million. Deficit in February was due to a sharp increase in the cost of Russian oil because of Russia’s tax manoeuvre and falling prices on petroleum products on the world market. In the future, foreign trade deficit would only increase. In order to curb foreign trade deficit, the Belarusian authorities are likely to restrict imports to Belarus, including from the EAEC. In order to stimulate exports, Belarus might increase preferential lending to exporters. Belarus might somewhat improve her foreign trade indicators thanks to a contract with China to supply potash fertilizers and thanks to reduced prices for natural gas.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.