Belarus - St. Petersburg shows interest in cooperation with Belarus in all areas

St. Petersburg is interested in stepping up the cooperation with Belarus, St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko said at a session of the Belarus-St. Petersburg Business Cooperation Council in Minsk on 21 December.

"We would like to intensify the cooperation with Belarus in all areas. We are ready to take every effort for this," the Governor underscored.

According to Valentina Matvienko, the economies of Belarus and St. Petersburg have been dynamically developing despite the global financial and economic crisis. "I believe our cooperation is a good example for other regions," she said. The cooperation with Belarus is a priority for the St. Petersburg Government.

"We have something to be proud of. Despite the difficulties and the crisis we have met the challenge. In Q3 the trade between St. Petersburg and Belarus exceeded USD 800 million. It is a good performance," Valentina Matvienko noted.

At the same time, the Governor noted that it is necessary to develop new avenues of cooperation between Belarus and St. Petersburg amid the crisis. "We understand that the next year will be complicated as well. At the same time, we hope that the measures envisaged in the 2009-2011 cooperation programme will be implemented successfully. All prerequisites are in place for this," she said. In the near future Belarus and St. Petersburg should attach special attention to the cooperation in the energy, innovation and other areas. "We have a considerable potential which we should use," the Governor underscored.

Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky remarked that in 2010 restoring the Belarus-Saint Petersburg trade up to at least the figures registered in 2008 should be the key goal. Belarus is ready to increase trade volumes and promote tight manufacturing cooperation ties with the Russian city. The Prime Minister reminded that ten months had passed since the previous session of the Belarus-Saint Petersburg Business Cooperation Council. Back then the trade hit a record high of over RUB50 billion. This year, however, the trade volume plummeted. The decrease in the Belarus-Saint Petersburg trade roughly equals to the decrease in Belarus' trade with Russia - 48%. Yet the Belarusian head of Government was confident the situation will be stabilized as the necessary conditions are available.

As a positive example of promoting manufacturing cooperation ties between Belarus and Saint Petersburg Sergei Sidorsky mentioned this year's startup of joint enterprises designed to produce lifts, tractors and trolleybuses in the city upon the Neva. The creation of a chain of Belarusian food stores in Saint Petersburg is one of the most promising projects. The project has already begun. "We hope the scheme to continue actively evolving," said Sergei Sidorsky. The Belarusian food chain in Saint Petersburg is supposed to comprise 50 outlets.

Supplying Belarusian agricultural products to Russia's "northern capital" is an important area of cooperation between Belarus and Saint Petersburg. "I think the plan in this area is being implemented effectively, we can definitely beef up the trade in 2010," Sergei Sidorsky said.

Cooperation in leasing is another promising area of Belarus-Saint Petersburg cooperation. In Belarus a decision has been made to set up a national leasing company that will be tasked with promoting Belarusian products to the Russian market, including Saint Petersburg.

Belarus expects the number of Russian banks assisting the sales of Belarusian machines in Russia to increase.

"Russian banks, in particular, Moscow Industrial Bank, would like to use such schemes and we will welcome it," said the Belarusian head of Government.

Sergei Sidorsky reminded that in accordance with an agreement signed by Sberbank of Russia Belarus undertook to subsidize part of the interest rates involved in supplying Belarusian machines and equipment to Russian customers. "The step is very important. It expands the access of Belarusian machines to the Russian market," he underlined. Other Russian banks are now interested in using such schemes. "There are banks operating in provinces of Russia and they and these schemes could use attention," said the Prime Minister.

Belarus and Saint Petersburg will promote cooperation in the sci-tech area, Sergei Sidorsky told reporters.

The Belarusian head of Government noted that in the times of the crisis "the turnover between Belarus and Saint Petersburg has considerably dropped." "However we have science-intensive products that match the level of economic development of Belarus and Saint Petersburg," he underlined.

Commenting on the session of Belarus-St. Petersburg Business Cooperation Council held in Minsk on 21 December, Sergei Sidorsky noted that the sides discussed high-tech, science-intensive projects that laid the basis for the further cooperation between Belarus and Saint Petersburg. "It is important that taking part in the Business Cooperation Council were heads of R&D centers; they presented concrete projects in the area of nano-technologies, vehicle components and microelectronics. These are the programs that lay the foundation for the further development of the economies of Belarus and Russia, we support them," Sergei Sidorsky said. The Belarusian head of Government added that these proposals will be included in the agenda of the Union State session in February 2010.

One of the key issues discussed at the council was the development of Belarus' trade and distribution network in Saint Petersburg. "We are grateful to the Saint Petersburg government for allocating land plots to set up Belarusian trading centers and construct corner stores. These are over 50 land plots, the work on over 20 of them has already been launched," Sergei Sidorsky said.

The Belarusian Premier expressed confidence that in 2010 Belarus and Saint Petersburg will restore the 2008 level of trade. There are all the prerequisites to achieve that.

In January-October 2009 Belarus-Saint Petersburg trade totaled USD 802.3 million (fourth one among regions of Russia), down by 1.8 times in comparison with the same period of last year. Belarus' export amounted to USD 465.9 million (third), down by 1.6 times, Belarus' import - USD 336.4 million (fifth), down by 2.1 times. The foreign trade surplus totaled USD 129.5 million, 220% up on the same period of last year.


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