Growth in potash sales unlikely to reverse negative trend in Belarus’ foreign trade
According to the National Statistics Committee, despite an increase in exports by 16% as compared with January 2016, in January 2017, foreign trade deficit totalled USD 385.4 million. In January 2016, foreign trade deficit was USD 91.5 million and has since deteriorated due to the increase in the basic import prices on oil, petrochemicals, natural gas, and raw material for food production. Demand for foreign currency from importers on the domestic market is likely to increase, prices on petrochemical goods and foodstuffs on the domestic market are likely to increase, too. The state is likely to introduce additional restrictions on imports and the carriage of goods by different transport means is likely to increase. Potash production, one of the key Belarusian export commodities, increased in January 2017 by 75%; over 90% of produced potash was exported. If potash prices on the international potash market remain high, Belarus is likely to boost her currency earnings by USD 20-30 million per month. However, this is unlikely to help overcome foreign trade deficit in Belarus.
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.