Deputy FM Says Belarus And EU Need New Partnership, Co-operation Agreement

MINSK, March 13 (NNN=BELTA) -- Belarus and the European Union (EU) need to conclude a new agreement on partnership and co-operation for successful development of economic and political relations, says Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Yevdochenko.

Addressing a workshop on "Improving the conditions for attracting foreign investments" here Wednesday, he said: "The primary objective is to strengthen the legal-treaty base that is to institutionalize the relations."

The Deputy Foreign Minister noted that the Belarusian side was expecting the effective implementation of the Eastern Partnership.

"We expect the Eastern Partnership to be democratic, to take into account points of view of all member countries and those who are not hurrying to formalize their relations with the EU in the form of an EU membership application," Yevdochenko added.

Commenting on some projections about such Belarus-EU co-operation forms as a free trade zone and even a common economic space, the diplomat said it was necessary to be realistic. "First we need to sort out our economic relations," he said.

"Today's motto, 'Europe without boundaries', introduced by the Czech presidency appears very topical to us," Yevdochenko summarized.

Meanwhile, Belarus hopes the European Commission (EC) will give it more support for efforts by Belarus to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), Yevdochenko said.

"Unfortunately the European Commission has been hindering this process. We hope that in the light of an improving dialogue, the EU will revise the position," he added.

According to Yevdochenko, the barriers and discriminatory measures, which Belarus faces in advancing its products, are ungrounded. "Belarus is one of the few countries in the world to which the EU applies a 'zero' most favoured nation regime. Belarusian imports to other countries with similar economies are levied higher duties," he said.

He noted that in 2007 Belarus was excluded from the EU Generalised System of Preferences (GSP )arrangement, as a result of which Belarus lost hundreds of millions of dollars. The EU imposeD quotas on Belarusian textileS, which was contrary to the WTO rules, he said.

"We are the only country in the world against which the EU applies such discriminative measures," he said.

In 2008, trade between the EU and Belarus totalled 23 billion USD, up 12 times from 2000. Belarus' exports to the EU reached 14.4 billion USD. "Yet, if we do not take into account energy products, Belarus' deficit in trade with the EU will reach 5.5 billion USD," Yevdochenko said.

This shows that the EU countries need to open up their markets. "A question comes to mind: how far Belarus can succeed in attracting investments, for example, in the textile industry, if its textile imports are restricted, or in the agriculture industry when farm imports from Belarus to the EU are actually banned?" he asked. -- NNN-BELTA



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