Belarus expands economic cooperation with Asia and Africa
On May 22nd, Belarus’ Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich said at a meeting with Deputy Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Lu Yungsyan that Belarus and China were implementing joint investment projects worth USD 16 billion
On the same day, Belarusian Vice-Premier Anatoly Tozik and president of a Chinese company „Harbin Dongjin Group” Zhang Datszyun discussed the results of collaboration in joint ventures in 2011 and the prospects for expanding the economic cooperation. Since 2010 combine harvesters production operate in China as joint ventures with “Gomselmash” [Gomel agricultural machines] and “Minsk Tractor works”. In 2011, more than 400 corn and forage harvesters and 50 tractors were sold.
Mr. Tozik also met with representatives of Chinese Engineering Corporation SAMS (China CAMC Engineering Co). In Belarus, this Chinese company is implementing a number of large investment projects, for instance, a plant construction to produce bleached pulp cellulose at JSC “Svetlogorsk Pulp and Paper Mill” with 400 tons production capacity and the establishment of Sino-Belarusian industrial park.
During the meeting parties agreed to register as soon as possible a joint venture to manage Sino-Belarusian industrial park. Currently, about 10 large multinational companies are interested in placing their production in the park.
Administrative Director of the High-Technology Park, Valery Tsepkalo proposed to Lou Yungsyan to expand bilateral cooperation in the computer and information technology field and implement joint projects fulfilling orders from the third countries.
Chinese investment potential looks great at this stage. The People’s Bank of China is the world’s largest foreign reserves holder (USD 3.305 trillion on April 1st, 2012). According to the IMF, in 2017 China will become the largest economy in the world. Thus, Greater China GDP (including mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore), calculated at purchasing power parity, in 2017 will reach a record-breaking USD 22.518 trillion.
Moreover, Belarus intends to intensify economic cooperation with Bangladesh. On May 21st – 24th the first official visit of Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni took place and the parties discussed how to increase the supply of Belarusian potash fertilizers and agricultural machinery in the Bangladeshi market. This year, potash fertilizers were not supplied to Bangladesh (Bangladesh was not satisfied with the price increase).
During the visit, Dipu Moni met with President Alexander Lukashenko, Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich, with the leadership of the State Military-Industrial Committee, the Belarusian Potash Company, Minsk Tractor Plant, the Plant “Agromash” and others. It is projected that in Q4 of 2012, Belarusian Prime Minister will visit Bangladesh too.
In turn, Belarusian group of companies “Triple” (the main shareholder is Yury Siskin) is planning to build a tractor plant in Pakistan (Sindh). “Triple” representatives, Chepikov Alex, Andrey Slesarev and Alexander Kohov held talks with Province Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Chairman of the Investment Board of Pakistan Saleem H Mandivwala.
A member of the Investment Board Zubair Motiwala said Pakistan’s current demand for tractor machinery exceeds 100 thousand tractors. Pakistan proposed “Triple” to build a new factory site in the Hub industrial area, Pakistan.
On May 21st – 26th, a business delegation from South Africa paid a visit to Belarus. The delegation included representatives from South African companies Africa Union Holding, Pillman and Variquip. During talks with the Ministry of Industry of Belarus, MTZ, MAZ, JSC “Bobruisk”, “Gomselmash” and Scientific Center for Agriculture of NAS, the parties discussed the possibility to open an assembly production of Belarusian agricultural equipment in South Africa.
For reference. The National Statistics Committee data says the volume of foreign trade between Belarus and Asian countries decreased in Q1 2012 compared with the identical period in 2011 by 16.3% to USD 1.705 billion. Foreign trade turnover between Belarus and Africa in Q1 2012 has decreased by 20.3% to USD 139.755.
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.