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Opinions & Interviews

10 Apr 2018

Prime minister urges more effort to diversify Belarus’ export

Prime minister urges more effort to diversify Belarus’ export

MINSK, 10 April (BelTA) – More effort should be put into export diversification and the development of services. Prime Minister of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov gave the relevant instructions during the session of the Council of Ministers’ Presidium held on 10 April to discuss progress in implementing the national program on export support and development in 2016-2020, BelTA has learned.

Andrei Kobyakov pointed out that certain positive results in export had been achieved. In 2017 and in early 2018 Belarus’ export was on a steady rise trajectory for the first time since 2012. In January-February 2018 Belarus’ export rose by 29.8% to $6.185 billion, with the trade surplus at $206 million.

Merchandise export increased due to the rising average prices and due to larger export in physical terms. The achieved results match the targets set by the five-year program on the country’s social and economic development. “The favorable situation on the market of raw materials and on the markets of the main trade partners helped, too. At the same time not all the tasks set by the national program have been accomplished, primarily the geographical diversification and the development of the export of services,” noted the prime minister.

As for diversification, the concentration of export on the markets of Belarus’ five main trade partners remains above average. In January-February 2018 these markets accounted for nearly 71% of Belarus’ export although the dependence on the Russian market decreased. In January-February 2018 despite the overall increase in export to Russia by nearly $200 million the share of export to Russia was 38.2% (seven percentage points down from January-February 2017).

Speaking about diversifying the exports shipped to the European Union, Andrei Kobyakov pointed out that the choice of products Belarus sells to the European Union is rather limited. Petrochemical products make up about 50% of the product range. “The high concentration on the market of one country or several countries or on a narrow product range represents a considerable risk for our country. The risk needs to be minimized,” stressed the Belarusian head of government.

According to the prime minister, there is a considerable potential in the export of services. In line with the national program on export support and development for the 2016-2020 period this year’s export of services is expected to account for at least 23% of the total volume. In 2017 the figure stood at 21.4%. In January-February 2018 it was only 19.4%. In 2017 transportation accounted for the bulk of the export of services — 44.4% of the total volume. The share of communication, computer, and information services in the total export was close to 19%. This is why the Council of Ministers’ Presidium met on 10 April to discuss ways to increase the export of other kinds of services — tourism, education, medical services, and other ones. “We will consider these questions in detail. I would like to learn what measures are being taken to increase the export of services, what problems deter development, and what proposals to address the problems are available. I would like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to stay out of it. Instead I want the ministry to coordinate these matters,” said Andrei Kobyakov.

Belarusian First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Yeudachenka explained that Belarus had initially wanted the export of services to surpass the export of merchandise. However, the goal has not been achieved so far, this is why ways to step up the export of services — banking, insurance, education, and tourism ones — are being discussed, said the official.

An increase in the export of services to the European Union in January-February 2018 was most noticeable — 30% up. Export to Russia, other CIS and non-CIS states increased as well, said Andrei Yeudachenka. “At the same time export development cannot be left unattended. This is why today we’ve gathered for a scheduled meeting to see how the national export development program is being implemented. It is designed to run for five years. We are roughly in the middle of the period now. It is very important to compare notes in order to know what should be done in the period till 2020,” he said.

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