Cooperation of Belarus and Uzbekistan: a bridge between Europe and Central Asia

№ 2, 2021

Uzbekistan is a strategic partner for Belarus in Central Asia. The two countries have always maintained friendly relations based on mutual trust, open dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation. In 2019, the Belarus-Uzbekistan Business Council was established to foster business interaction between the two states. The first meeting of the Council was held in Tashkent on March 4, 2021. Belarus-Uzbekistan bilateral relations are founded on close trade and economic ties, ensured by the fact that the economies of the two states are synergetic and mutually supporting. Uzbekistan provides a platform for the promotion of Belarusian goods and technologies; the products of the Eastern partner are known and loved in Belarus. Belarus-Uzbekistan relations reached a new level after the heads of the two states exchanged visits in 2018 and 2019. The intergovernmental action plan was updated and today includes ­almost two hundred tasks: from industrial cooperation, delivery of goods to gene­ral partnerships, projects in education and tourism. Many of them have ­already been completed or are in the final stage. Economic cooperation is enhancing. In 2020, despite the pandemic, bi­lateral trade increased. There was significant growth in deliveries of Belarusian meat, dairy products and confectione­ries to Uzbekistan. Besides, Belarusian companies exported trucks, tractors, medicines. One of the main avenues is industrial cooperation with further promotion of joint products to new markets. Several Belarusian brands have succeeded in this realm. For instance, an assembly plant has been set up in Uzbekistan, which produces road-building and special equipment for Central Asia. In 2019, Minsk hosted the First Forum of Regions of Belarus and Uzbekistan, and it proved to be very productive for both countries. Besides, within the extended-format meeting of the President of the Republic of ­Belarus ­Aleksandr Lukashenko and the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev on August 1, 2019, the heads of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Uzbekistan signed the Agreement on the establishment of the Belarus-Uzbekistan Business Council. The new business interaction tool aims to facilitate business partnerships, contribute to a stable dialogue with competent authorities of both countries, work out recommendations on the improvement of the business environment in Belarus and Uzbekistan. In 2020, due to objective reasons, the work of the Business Council remained stuck. As soon as the restrictions were lifted, the first meeting of the Belarus-Uzbekistan Business Council was held in Tashkent on March 4, 2021, organized by the BelCCI and the CCI of Uzbekistan as part of the work of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Bilateral Cooperation between the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Uzbekistan. The meeting of the Business Council was co-chaired by the BelCCI Chairman Vladimir Ulakhovich and the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan Adham Ikramov. Taking part in the meeting were guests of honor: co-chairs of the Belarus-­Uzbekistan ­Intergovernmental ­Commission for Cooperation – ­ Belarus' Deputy Prime Minister ­Aleksandr ­Subbotin and Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of ­Uzbekistan Sardor Umurzakov. Belarus was represented by more than 70 heads and representatives of organi­zations and companies, including the flagships of mechanical engineering, biggest food manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, logistics and insurance companies, research facilities and educational institutions. On the Uzbek side, participating in the meeting were 100 representatives of companies from different spheres, interested in partner relations with ­Belarusian enterprises. The participants of the meeting discussed promising avenues of cooperation in trade and economy, and ways to make the most of business contacts of the two states. The participants from Belarus learned about Uzbekistan's projects in agriculture and food and the work of the Association of Electrical Engineering Enterprises of Uzbekistan. Belarus presented the country's largest bioindustry project – the Belarusian National Biotechnology Corporation. The Business Council meeting participants noted that the Business ­Council was supposed to further deepen partnership relations between Belarus and Uzbekistan, intensify cooperation ­between companies in trade and investment, identify and overcome barriers to expanding bilateral trade and economic cooperation. "The interest shown by businesspeople in the work of the Belarus-Uzbekistan Business Council, the participation of the distinguished guests in its meeting give reason to believe that this body will work effectively and contribute to the expansion of Belarusian-Uzbek foreign economic relations. The Council meeting is a platform for establishing contacts and discussing avenues of long-term mutually beneficial co­operation," the Chairman of the BelCCI Vladimir Ulakhovich said. During the meeting, the heads of the BelCCI and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan signed an Action plan to implement the provisions of the Agreement on the establishment of the Belarus-Uzbekistan Business Council for 2021–2022, which provides for closer cooperation between the two chambers, exchange of business visits, including at the regional level, holding exhibitions in the two countries and sharing information about companies interested in establishing partnerships. At the end of the meeting, representatives of Belarusian and Uzbek companies held bilateral talks on further cooperation in the fields of agriculture, mechanical engineering, logistics, food industry, chemical and pharmaceutical production, science and education, information technology, and others. Besides, as part of the visit to ­Uzbekistan and the Business Council work, Belarusian businesspeople visited Uzbek companies and organizations and discussed cooperation opportunities. In particular, on March 3, the Belarusian delegation members had a ­meeting with the managers of the GDF Export agricultural complex, where they discussed the prospects for Belarusian agricultural products supplies to ­Uzbekistan, as well as the use of the Bremino-Orsha logistics complex for the transit of the GDF goods to Europe. On March 4–5, the Belarusian businesspeople had several individual meetings with heads of Uzbek enterprises working in the fields of agriculture, construction, medical production, R&D institutes. On the 5th of March, the delegation led by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr ­Subbotin visited Samarkand and had a meeting with the Samarkand ­Region Governor Erkinjon Turdimov. The meeting addressed the prospects for Belarus-­Uzbekistan trade and economic cooperation in the fields of industrial production, agriculture and education, joint projects in mechanical engineering, as well as the possibilities to expand business contacts at a regional level. During the visit to Samarkand, the ­BelCCI Chairman met with the managers of the Samarkand Regional Division of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The sides discussed inter-chamber cooperation, the possibilities of a Belarusian business delegation visit to Samarkand this year. Thus, the business program of the Belarusian delegation visit to Uzbekistan was eventful. Alongside intergovernmental issues' discussions, business contacts were established which will yield concrete results, such as signed contracts on product delivery. The next meeting of the Belarus-Uzbekistan Business Council will be held in Minsk, and the sides believe it to be no less large-scale and productive.