ASTANA – In his interview with The Astana Times, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Kazakhstan Anatoly Nichkassov underlined the importance of growing economic relations between Belarus and Kazakhstan and stressed further development of current relations, including under the conditions of the newly-created Eurasian Economic Union, as well as establishing new projects and deepening cultural exchange.
How would you describe the current bilateral relations between Belarus and Kazakhstan in politics, economy and culture?
Our countries have had traditionally friendly relations. Belarus and Kazakhstan maintain an active dialogue on the highest levels and are strategic, trade-economic and foreign partners.
We hold regular meetings and develop further cooperation on the basis of different organisations, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Union. Our countries represent constructive interaction and share common positions within the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and other international organisations.
Belarus is interested in a close partnership with Kazakhstan in all spheres and calls for a systemic deepening of bilateral relations. Despite the negative factors that we are facing in the global economy today, bilateral trade and economic relations between Belarus and Kazakhstan are developing dynamically. The trade and economic relations with Kazakhstan are of high priority for Belarus. In light of the negative processes in the Russian economy and in general a rather complicated situation on the world markets, it is beneficial for both Belarus and Kazakhstan to increase foreign trade turnover, improve the efficiency of joint projects and deepen and broaden cooperation in the industrial, scientific and technological spheres.
Currently, special attention is paid to the development of industrial cooperation between Belarusian and Kazakh engineering enterprises. In this direction, we are focusing our efforts on the development of existing assembly productions of Belarusian machinery that are present in Kazakhstan as well as the creation of new industries.
For this year we plan to transfer the production of a BelAZ-7547 dumper from the Belarusian company BelAZ to KazBelAZ, a joint venture located in Karaganda. We will also transfer the production of another dumper such as BelAZ-7540V and BelAZ-75473 in the future. It is also planned to organise the production of Belarusian agricultural, municipal and road-building equipment at the site of the joint Belarusian-Kazakh Industrial and Technological Park of agricultural and municipal vehicles located in Kokshetau and to organise assembly production of Belarusian automotive engineering from the Minsk Automobile Plant on the basis of Semipalatinsk Machine Works.
In 2015, it is planned to organise an assembly of five models of the MAZ make. Agromashholding (Kazakhstan) and Gomselmash (Belarus) are working on the establishment of a joint production of combine harvesters. The realisation of large transnational projects in space and energy spheres is promising for us, including cooperation on nuclear power plant construction, development, production and processing of hydrocarbons, engineering, trade and logistic activities.
The growth of investments and the allocation of Kazakh capital in Belarus is the core of bilateral relations. Belarus is ready to create favourable conditions for Kazakhstan business in our country. At the governmental level, we are ready to support proposals for future projects in various fields like petrochemicals, energy, transport and logistics, innovation and new technologies where Belarus and Kazakhstan could implement two or three major projects together.
Today one of the most important tools for strengthening and developing the cultural ties, friendly relations and cooperation between our nations is the organisation of joint cultural events, exhibitions, forums, festivals and creative competitions. Belarus and Kazakhstan Culture Days have become a good tradition. The Days of Culture of Belarus in Kazakhstan were well organised in 2014 and this year it is planned to hold Days of Culture of Kazakhstan in our country.
The organisation of such large-scale events raises interest and respect abroad, while the creativity of Belarusian and Kazakh artists helps strengthen friendship and promotes the rich and unique cultures of our countries.
Could you describe the volume of bilateral trade-economic relations during the past four or five years, as well as the key spheres of the cooperation?
In the context of the global crisis, the trade turnover between Belarus and Kazakhstan reached a historic high and amounted to $1.17 billion in 2014; the general growth composed 22.9 percent in comparison to 2013. The Belarusian exports to Kazakhstan amounted to $877.6 million and have increased by 0.8 percent, while imports from Kazakhstan composed $293.8 million and have increased by 3.6 times. Compared to 2007, foreign trade turnover between the two countries increased by 2.3 times.
Belarusian products for export in 2014 were mostly oil products ($88.5 million or 10.1 percent of total exports), tractors and truck tractors ($76.9 million or 8.8 percent), milk and dairy products ($68.5 million or 7.8 percent), trucks ($59.5 million or 6.8 per cent), furniture ($51.8 million or 5.9 percent), machinery and equipment for harvesting and threshing ($44.4 million or 5.1 percent), tires ($39.7 million or 4.5 per cent), sugar ($38.4 million or 4.4 percent), meat products ($20.7 million or 2.4 percent), railway freight cars ($19.5 million or 2.2 percent), fresh fruits ($18.2 million or 2.1 per cent) and pharmaceuticals ($16.8 million or 1.9 percent).
Investment cooperation has been actively developing in 2014; Kazakhstan has invested $101.7 million in Belarus, including direct investments totalling $4.2 million in 2014, and Belarus has invested $117.3 million in Kazakhstan, including direct investments in the amount of $107.2 million.
In the field of industrial cooperation 13 joint assembly plants have been established in Kazakhstan: BelAZ quarry and mine equipment and MAZ tractors, forage and grain harvesters, freight lifts, special fire and municipal vehicles and excavators. The project on the creation of the Belarusian-Kazakh Industrial and Technological Park of agricultural and municipal vehicles is under realisation now. This project will help establish a joint venture for the production of MT3 Bobruiskagromash tractors, MAZ municipal vehicles, Amkodor road-building equipment, Lidselmash agricultural machinery and Gomselmash combine harvesters.
Could you name some positive and negative aspects of the Eurasian Economic Union?
With the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Belarus and Kazakhstan have reached a new level of bilateral relations.
The Eurasian Economic Union is aimed at creating conditions for sustainable economic development of its member states and improving living standards. I would mention the fact that among its main advantages, the EAEU provides a free movement of goods, services, capital and labour and helps to coordinate a coherent and unified economic policy.
From Jan.1, Belarus took over the presidency of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, Eurasian Intergovernmental Council and the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission. Belarus has already outlined its priorities, such as assistance in promotion of the four fundamental economic freedoms of the union, the total abolition of exemptions and restrictions in the movement of goods, common industrial and agricultural policies and improving the efficiency of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
Speaking about negative factors, I would single out the presence of the exceptions and limitations in the union that significantly impede an economic integration process. We still have a long and difficult path to go in order to develop the union. A comprehensive modernisation of industrial capacity should take place. Moreover, we have to increase the cooperation between our companies and the competitiveness of national economies in the framework of the global economy.
Are you expecting any Belarusian high officials to come to Astana this year? Maybe some cultural events are going to be organised?
A lot of events will take place in the framework of the political and economic agenda this year. First of all, we expect the President of Belarus and the President of the Russian Federation, who were invited by Nursultan Nazarbayev to come in the near future [March 12-13].
The most important bilateral political event that is planned for 2015 is an official visit of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of Belarus. Because of the chairmanship of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the CIS this year, Kazakhstan will hold several meetings of the Council of Heads of State and Government of the CIS. Kazakhstan will also organise the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council meetings as a member state of the Eurasian Economic Union.
The year 2015 is the year of the 70th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War (World War II). The event is extremely important and is truly a milestone. First of all, it is our common history; it is the memory of the combat brotherhood, unparalleled courage and heroism of soldiers of all nationalities who gave their own lives fighting for the freedom and independence of our countries. The Great Victory unites and will continue uniting our countries and nations. As we know, a commemorative medal titled 70 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 has been approved. This award will be given to the veterans of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, as well as to others within the CIS member states. The award ceremonies in Belarus and Kazakhstan and other CIS countries have already begun.
The celebration programme of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of the CIS states has been approved. According to this programme, the heads of CIS states will hold speeches and military parades will take place in the capitals and cities for the heroes, as well as rewarding and honouring ceremonies for veterans.
During the celebrations, participants will be able to use the international and long-distance telephone service for free. Also, they will be entitled to travel on all types of transport (except taxis) in the territory of the CIS for free.
A number of joint Belarusian-Kazakh projects are going to be implemented. In particular, numerous archive documents about the participation of the natives of Kazakhstan in the partisan movement in Belarus have been revealed and now a joint scientific publication is anticipated.
Within the framework of agreements and memorandum on cooperation between museums of Belarus and Kazakhstan, several exhibitions will be organised. In May 2015, the exhibition “The harsh, military, simple …” will be held in Astana at the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan. These collections will be presented by the National History Museum of Belarus.
Numerous Belarusian ethnic organisations represented in Kazakhstan by 13 ethno-cultural associations will all have opportunities for the preservation and enhancement of the Belarusian language and culture in Kazakhstan and are actively involved in the conduct and organisation of various events dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan.
We are very pleased to realise that Belarus and Kazakhstan have friendly strategic relations and that both countries are firmly aimed at further close cooperation across the whole spectrum of issues included in the bilateral agenda. I am confident that our relations will continue developing on the basis of the strong friendship, mutual respect, understanding and trust between the peoples of Belarus and Kazakhstan.