Azerbaijan, Belarus forge agro-industrial cooperation framework
    Review by Caliber.Az

    ANALYTICS  20 May 2024 - 18:40

    Khazar Akhundov

    Over the past two decades, Azerbaijani-Belarusian trade and economic relations have taken on a strategic character: their distinguishing feature is the high level of state support for all implemented initiatives and the readiness to expand cooperation in the direction of investment and production projects.

    The two friendly countries continue to maintain a high level of partnership and cooperation, as evidenced by the results of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's state visit to Azerbaijan. During the visit, a number of bilateral documents were signed and prospects for joint initiatives in the agricultural and food sectors, construction, transport, digitalization, tourism, and more were discussed.

    The presence of enormous potential for Azerbaijani-Belarusian economic cooperation is evidenced by the fact that in recent years, alongside Russia and Kazakhstan, Belarus has consistently been among the top three leading trading partners of Azerbaijan in the post-Soviet space. The peak level of mutual trade between Baku and Minsk was reached in 2018 when bilateral trade turnover almost tripled, reaching $465 million.

    During the pandemic, trade between the two countries decreased somewhat for objective reasons, and despite a rise to $424.5 million in 2021, bilateral trade turnover decreased again in the following year. Last year, mutual trade, according to Belarusian statistical data, exceeded $400 million, and it seems that the two states intend to maintain this upward trend in 2024.

    One of the main goals of the current meeting in Baku is the consistent expansion of trade and economic ties between the two countries with the prospect of surpassing the half-billion-dollar mark in trade turnover. Baku and Minsk successfully cooperate in the fields of processing industries, agriculture, transportation, tourism, pharmaceuticals, and high technologies.

    As an example, about 70% of all tractors in Azerbaijan originate from Belarus. In particular, over 17 years of joint work at the Ganja Automobile Plant, more than 12,000 Belarusian tractors have been assembled, as well as around 4,000 units of other machinery (MAZ, MZKT, "AMKODOR"). Joint production of combine harvesters and passenger transport is also planned.

    “We have had a very detailed conversation on many issues of the bilateral agenda, as well as regional and international matters. We have once again confirmed the strategic nature of our relations,” said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in an expanded format.

    “Members of our delegations had the opportunity to communicate yesterday, and as far as I know the contacts were also very effective and positive. There are a lot of topics that need to be addressed. Looking at the prospects of our interaction, we are observing huge potential, an increase in trade turnover, and continued expansion of industrial cooperation, and collaboration in agriculture,” Aliyev added.

    The head of state also expressed interest in the participation of Belarusian companies and enterprises in the restoration of the territories liberated from occupation in our country.

    In turn, touching upon the question of participation in the revival of the liberated territories, the President of Belarus expressed readiness to provide support in this regard. “We have certain technologies, and your specialists and ministers know these technologies well. If they are suitable, if our equipment can be present and work here,” noted Alexander Lukashenko.

    It is worth reminding that a meeting has already taken place between the head of the Administration of the President of Azerbaijan, the head of the Coordination Headquarters for the centralized solution of issues in the territories liberated from occupation, Samir Nuriyev, and the Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Igor Petrishenko, who arrived in Baku: in particular, there was a discussion of wide opportunities for cooperation in the revival of the Karabakh region, development of joint business initiatives here.

    Overall, the main focus of the negotiations in Baku was on expanding trade and economic cooperation and furthering investment collaboration. The parties discussed aspects of industrial cooperation, implementation of current and prospective projects in food production and supply, and agricultural product processing. The prospects of agricultural cooperation between Azerbaijan and Belarus, possibly one of the key topics discussed in Baku, were also considered.

    As part of the Belarusian president's visit to Baku, an extensive delegation of representatives from private companies and government structures arrived, led by the Minister of Agriculture and Food of Belarus, Sergey Bartosh. A meeting between the heads of the two agricultural departments also took place. According to the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Azerbaijan, agreements were reached to study Belarus's experience in building agro-towns and agricultural education, as well as expanding cooperation in livestock breeding, joint production of veterinary drugs, and establishing joint ventures in several other areas of the domestic agro-industry.

    In particular, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko proposed the establishment of joint pharmaceutical enterprises: "As for pharmaceuticals and medicines, we are ready to start supplying medicines that you need very much even tomorrow, and create joint production of medicines and veterinary drugs here, as well as the technologies we can produce in Belarus."

    The significance of the agricultural sector in bilateral relations is also evident from the visit of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Belarus to the Baku Expo Center exhibition complex, where the XXIX InterFood Azerbaijan-2024 food industry exhibition and the XVII Caspian Agro agricultural exhibition are taking place. It is noteworthy that 42 Belarusian agricultural companies participated in the agricultural exhibition in Baku, and during the forum, they managed to sign various agreements totaling over $54 million.

    Equally promising appears to be bilateral cooperation in the field of construction: on May 15 in Baku, a memorandum was signed between the Main State Project Institute "AzerArkhProject" and the Joint Stock Company "Belgosproekt Institute". The parties agreed on joint development of concepts and sketch solutions, assistance in implementing BIM technologies, adapting documentation for design objects in the territories of both countries, promoting projects in architecture and urban planning, etc.

    During the negotiations between the Minister of Digital Development and Transport of Azerbaijan, Rashad Nabiyev, and the Minister of Transport and Communications of Belarus, Alexey Lyakhnovich, cooperation on transport corridors was discussed, including the "North-South" route, as well as in the field of railway, road, and air transport. Issues of partnership in the digitalization of the transport sector were also considered.

    Following the intergovernmental and interdepartmental negotiations held in Baku with the participation of the leaders of both states, the signing of bilateral documents took place, including those in the business sphere.

    In particular, protocols were signed on the mutual application of an electronic system for certification of the origin of goods, a plan of actions for the development of cooperation in the field of tourism for 2024–2025, a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in the field of competition policy, government procurement, consumer rights protection, and advertising activities, as well as a memorandum of understanding between the Agency for the Development of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses of Azerbaijan and the National Agency for Investments and Privatization of Belarus.

    Additionally, protocols were signed between the agricultural departments of the two countries, amending and supplementing previously signed intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in the field of plant quarantine and protection and in the field of veterinary medicine.

    In Baku, further steps to expand trade, investment cooperation, and strengthen joint regulatory frameworks were discussed, and it was planned that these issues would be addressed during the 14th meeting of the Azerbaijan-Belarus Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, which will take place in Minsk in June 2024.


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