Major liberal reform lures investment to Belarus

| April 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
The Minsk Arena it is the main stadium for the 2014 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships.

The Minsk Arena it is the main stadium for the 2014 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships.

Strengthening economic relations between our countries is one of the major objectives of the Embassy of Belarus in Canada.
Belarus is well known as a country of marvelous natural beauty and original culture. However, Belarus has recently also acquired status for the economic policy the country has adopted.
The model of economic development Belarus has chosen, and the results it has now achieved, have earned the country a reputation as a reliable and stable partner.
Manufacturing, which includes machine building, metalwork, the chemical industry, forestry, petrochemical and wood processing, is the main sector of the country’s economy. Belarusian agriculture is traditional. Its main products are milk, beef, pork, poultry, grains, potatoes, flax, sugar beets, fruits and vegetables.
You can imagine what Belarus’ economy looks like today just by studying the following figures. A country with fewer than 9.6 million people, Belarus accounts for, as a percentage of worldwide production, the following: 30 percent of dump trucks, 11 percent of potash fertilizers, 6 percent of tractors, 1.1 percent of milk and 0.6 percent of artificial fibres.
Belarus also produces buses, tubes, oil refinery products, ceramic tiles and glass, which are exported around the world. Unfortunately, the volume of Belarus’ exports to Canada is rather small — C$33.9 million from January through October 2011. These include petroleum, urea fertilizers, tires, lumber, clothing, tractors, optical equipment, glass fibres and confectioneries. In the same period, the value of Canadian exports to Belarus was only C$2 million (mainly telephone sets, transmission apparatus, instruments for chemical analysis and medicines).
It goes without saying that both countries have great potential for increasing trade. We are very interested in Canadian companies which could represent Belarus producers of trucks, harvesters, trams and building materials in Canada.
Belarus is well-placed for international trade. It is a member of the Customs Union with Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. Situated in the centre of Europe on the crossroads of East-West and North-South routes, it has good transport infrastructure and well-educated, hardworking people. In short, Belarus is an excellent place for Canadian companies looking to create their enterprises in the markets of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Knowing Canada as a world leader in such areas as green energy, pharmaceuticals, innovations and transport equipment, we are seeking the participation of Canadian companies in Belarus investment projects in these areas. We would also welcome their participation in projects linked with extraction of mineral resources, wood processing and agriculture.
Aiming to increase the number of foreign investors, the Belarus government has fulfilled massive reforms for liberalization. As a result, the World Bank’s Doing Business 2010 annual report places Belarus at No. 4 in the Top-10 reformers of business regulation.
As a result, more than 5,000 commercial organizations in the country are partially or fully owned by foreign companies.
Belarus has created an effective legal framework for the investment business, underpinned by international treaties and national legislation. In my country, all investors are guaranteed equal non-discriminatory protection of rights and lawful interests, regardless of ownership nationality.
The legal reforms also offer preferential investment treatment. There are special legal regimes for investors in free economic zones, small- and medium-sized towns, rural areas and in the high-technology park. The rights of foreign investors are protected not only on a national but also on an international level: As of July 2011, Belarus signed two basic agreements with the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.
I would also like to emphasize that the advantage of the Belarus economy lies in the enormous transit potential provided by its favourable geopolitical location and transport infrastructure.
Belarus is well positioned as a hub between CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, a 12-country broad-based association of former USSR countries) and the European Union. The transport infrastructure combines a broad network of ground, rail, air and water routes. Belarus’ transport industry is highly promising for investments, especially in its creation of logistic centres.
As for foreign investments to the service sector, Belarus’ has adopted special rules as incentives to investors in tourism and related industries.
We would like to see Canadians in Belarus not only as investors, but also as tourists, especially in 2014, when Belarus will host the Ice Hockey World Cup.
The Belarus embassy will be glad to assist Canadian companies, looking for long-term mutually beneficial cooperation with us.

Roman Sobolev is chargé d’affaires, ad interim, at the Embassy of Belarus in Canada. Reach him at email: canada@mfa.gov.by or 613-233-9994.

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