Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko continues a series of meetings with heads of Russian regions. A big delegation of the Republic of Tuva led by the region's head Vladislav Khovalyg has arrived in Minsk on its first visit, BelTA has learned.
“This is a historic day, because you have come to Minsk for the first time,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said welcoming the head of the Russian region. “I am convinced that your visit will become a landmark event opening up new cooperation opportunities in the name of our brotherly nations. I really hope so and I strongly believe that it will be so. Otherwise, what is the point of making such a long way over here?”
“We need to lay a strong foundation for our cooperation,” the Belarusian leader emphasized. According to him, the bilateral trade leaves much to be desired for various reasons. “Yet, there is room for growth and there is a lot of work ahead. I am convinced that this potential is enormous. We just need to fulfill our plans and aspirations. In the near future, we are set to increase our trade manifold (and I believe you are ready for this, too). However, for this we need to outline the main priorities, and this is the reason we have gathered here today,” the president noted.
Aleksandr Lukashenko assured that Belarus is ready to take immediate steps to promote cooperation. “I am sure you are ready for this, too. You know the Belarus-Russia policy, our attitude towards Russia, and when making decisions today, we will not go beyond what we have already outlined with the president of the Russian Federation. And even if we do, I think the Russian leadership will welcome this,” the head of state said.
He believes that, taking into account the needs of the Republic of Tuva and the capacities of Belarus, special attention should be paid to increasing the supply of engineering products. “You know the level of our mechanical engineering, you can visit any enterprise, you are welcome anywhere. You know what we can produce: construction and road construction vehicles, agricultural machinery and municipal vehicles. Take a tour of these factories and if you are okay with their products, we will strictly abide by our arrangements,” the president said.
The president believes that bilateral relations can benefit a lot from cooperation in manufacturing, technology transfer and export of services. For example, Belarus is ready to supply food products to Tuva. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarusian foodstuffs are in demand abroad and their export approximated $7 billion last year.
Technology transfer is possible not only in agriculture, but also in the processing industry and in manufacturing in general, as well as in knowledge-intensive sectors. “We are ready to offer whatever you need, whatever you see. We will certainly be able to come to an agreement,” Aleksandr Lukashenko assured.
Tourism is another promising avenue of cooperation, because the Republic of Tuva is known for its picturesque landscapes. “This is a fabulous place, I saw it in the cinema, in pictures,” the Belarusian leader noted. “Of course, I would like to visit this amazing land.”
Speaking about possible forms of cooperation, Aleksandr Lukashenko named successful projects in Sakhalin Oblast, where a project to build a large agricultural enterprise with a dairy farm was implemented, as well as cooperation with Primorsky Krai. The cooperation was facilitated by contacts with Oleg Kozhemyako, the former governor of Sakhalin Oblast and the current governor of Primorsky Krai. He visited Belarus many times and is well informed about the capacity of Belarusian companies. This is the reason why the trade with these Russian regions is consistently high. “Now we are considering several projects upon agreement with President Putin. We are trying to figure out whether we will be able to complete the construction on time,” the head of state said.
As far as the construction sector is concerned, Belarus has a serious competitive edge here and is able to run large-scale projects, Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized. He recalled that there was no massive privatization in the country and state-run construction companies are still up and running. They take up turnkey projects, like building roads, industrial facilities, residential buildings, etc. “It's easier for us in this respect – you give an instruction to a company chief and tomorrow he/she will send a big team to the construction site. Things are more complicated with the companies that moved into private hands. Indeed, there can be private enterprises, but one should not destroy state-run companies. This was our policy, and today it is bearing fruit,” the Belarusian president said.
He believes that cooperation in science, education, culture, and mass media holds a lot of promise, too.
Taking the opportunity, Aleksandr Lukashenko congratulated Vladislav Khovalyg on the upcoming Lunar New Year. This holiday is called Shagaa and is always widely celebrated in Tuva on 2 February.
The Republic of Tuva is located in the geographical center of Asia, in the south of Eastern Siberia, and is part of the Siberian Federal District of Russia. The territory of the republic is comparable to that of Belarus – 170,500 square kilometers (Belarus has an area of 207,000 square kilometers). Yet, the Russian region has a much smaller population of 330,400 people.
Given the low population density of the Russian region and considerable distance between Tuva and Belarus (about 5,000 km), the trade between Belarus and the Republic of Tuva is still pretty small. In 2020, it amounted to about $275,000, in January-November 2021 - $47,500. The mutual trade is dominated by Belarusian exports, with Tuva supplying a very small amount of goods to Belarus.