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.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.