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24 Apr 2019

Belarus aims to increase export to China tenfold by 2025

Belarus aims to increase export to China tenfold by 2025

BEIJING, 24 April (BelTA) – Belarus aims to ramp up export to China ten times by 2025, from the current $0.5 billion to $5 billion, Belarus Economy Minister Dmitry Krutoi told the media, BelTA has learned.

“We have set an ambitious goal in terms of export of goods to China: $1.5 billion by 2020. These plans have been voiced repeatedly. We seek to hit the mark of $5 billion in the long-term, somewhere by 2025. Today our total export hovers around $33-34 billion, and China can objectively increase its share of our export to 10-15% given the capacity of the Chinese market. We can do much better than today’s $500 million. This can be, at least, 10 times more,” the minister said.

The Belarusian government is working to reduce a significant deficit in merchandise trade with China which currently stands at about $2.6 billion. The minister noted that this situation is largely due to rapid investment interaction for the past five years. Telecommunication and computer equipment account for a significant share in the import from China. So is equipment for a number of large investment projects, which are being implemented together with Chinese companies and as part of the credit lines.

Dmitry Krutoi sees significant growth potential for Belarusian export which in percentage terms has been growing at a faster rate than import. “We are reducing the deficit. I am not talking about the services. Clearly, we have a surplus on this front. We can tap into tourism given the visa-free travel, cooperation in healthcare, education. We hope to see more Chinese students [in Belarus]. China is planning to open a branch of the university, the alma mater of the Chinese president [Tsinghua University], in Great Stone. This will be a powerful impetus and signal primarily to the Chinese education system that Belarus is worth a larger-scale cooperation,” the minister noted.

With regard to commodity trade, he highlighted the need to gradually change the structure of Belarusian export which is now dominated (more than a half) by potash fertilizer and polyamide (approximately 10%). “These are not the goods with the highest added value. Here we naturally need to search for additional reserves. Agriculture is the key among them,” Dmitry Krutoi believes.
He cited the data that last year alone, following the opening of the Chinese market for Belarusian food manufacturers, Belarus’ food export increased more than four times. Milk export shot up nine times. “During this visit we are planning to discuss, including at the highest level, the certification of our baby food, feed additives, by-products from poultry and other critical positions that can open a very large niche for our exporters in the agricultural sector,” the minister said.

In his words, with the total agricultural export at $5.5 billion, Belarus plans to increase it to China to $500 million by 2023. “Some 10% of our agricultural exports bound for the Chinese market will herald quite a serious diversification in the current difficult environment, including tensions with Russia in the agricultural sector,” Dmitry Krutoi said.

There is also a potential to increase the supplies of Belarusian woodworking products. China is a big furniture importer. “This is the final product with the greatest added value. Our furniture producers need to step up cooperation, taking into account the availability of nine wood-board plants in the country. China is also one of the world’s biggest importers of cellulose pulp, coated and uncoated cardboard. We hope that once the corresponding capacities are commissioned [sulfate bleached pulp facility at the Svetlogorsk Pulp and Board Mill and also the production of coated and uncoated cardboard at the Hero of Labor Factory in Dobrush], our producers will be able to step up supplies,” the minister said. Dmitry Krutoi also emphasized the possibility of increasing the export of building materials.

“The second block of issues is investment cooperation. We have made considerable progress in recent years. The goal set forth by the president to shift from loans to direct investment is successfully fulfilled today. In 2018, direct investment accounted for 55% of China’ gross investment in Belarus. Several years ago this figure stood at 18%. Chinese investors have trust in our economy. Half of this FDI amount goes into the Great Stone Industrial Park,” Dmitry Krutoi said.

Prospects for investment cooperation are on the agenda of the current visit of the Belarusian delegation to China. “Wooden house structures are in high demand on the Chinese market. China lacks forests and has to import such products,” the minister said.

Dmitry Krutoi views the relations with China as successful in general. China has already become one of Belarus’ most important foreign trade partners. “Relations with China started developing some 10-12 years ago. Over the time we have managed to reach impressive results. I am confident that we will keep the momentum. We see no barriers at the high political level and at the level of ministries,” Dmitry Krutoi said.

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