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Belarus Looking Outside Russian and Europe for Partners

Venezuela and China may become new strategic partners of Belarus. Lukashenko’s delegation visited Caracas while the vice-chairman of the State Council of the Peoples Republic of China, Xi Jinping paid an official visit to Minsk.

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has asked the government to look for new commodity markets. “There are other fish in the sea besides Russia and Europe — it is necessary to reach out to the new regions”, he told Interfax. According to Lukashenko, Belarus is being pushed to embrace new partners because of unfair trade conditions with Russia and evasion of arrangements.

Minsk started it’s search for new partners when Russia stopped to finance delivery of cheap oil, he reminded. This year Belarus will receive 6.3 million duty-free tons of oil though 1.7 million tons less than asked for.

China decided to grant Belarus a soft loan of one billion dollars for the implementation of joint projects. According to the deputy chairman of China, President Hu Jintao personally ordered Chinese officials to study all the proposals of the Belarusian side on development of joint projects.

“We need to develop the potential of trade and promote cooperation in most large-scale projects, and thereby raise the level of our cooperation”, – said Xi in Minsk during his official visit to the country.

The Belarusian government’s press-service informed that the two countries’ cooperation program includes 89 projects, such as car manufacturing, renovation of power stations, building of hotels and a China-town in the country. Projects ought to be realized within three to four years. “Belarus prepares for privatization, and China would like to participate in it”, said the head of “Strategia” analytical center Leonid Zaiko.

The vice-premier of the government Vladimir Semashko told Reuters that Minsk going to import oil from Venezuela and a trial run of 80 000 tons is supposed to arrive in May.

Earlier Belarusian representatives declared their intention to import 4 million tons from Venezuela in 2010 and to increase volumes of purchases to 10 million tons in a year’s prospect. The total amount of the country internal consumption is now 6.3 million tons.

“We do not want to avoid cooperation with Russia, this is a question of markets diversification and mutually beneficial cooperation with new partners” announced Minsk officials to local media, while adding, “We offer Venezuela and China the projects rejected by the Russian Federation”.

Meanwhile, head of Mizesa’s Research center Yaroslav Romanchuk is assured that the transportation costs from Venezuela will block any profit. “The union with Venezuela is a rather political anti western campaign than economical decision”, — said Romanchuk to Russian business paper Vedomosti. The statistics does not reflect any growth of trade between these two countries. In January 2009 Venezuela bought 517 Belarus tractors while only seven in January 2010 .

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