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Russian-Belarusian talks

Mikhail Mishustin held talks with Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus Roman Golovchenko.

Excerpts from the transcript:

Mikhail Mishustin: Mr Golovchenko, colleagues, guests. I am delighted to welcome all of you
to the Government of the Russian Federation. This is our first meeting in 2021,
and I would like to wholeheartedly wish you all the very best in the new year.

We greatly value our fraternal relations with Belarus.
Our people share a common history and they are bound together with strong spiritual
and cultural ties. Of course, we are interested in advancing our cooperation to
a higher level and giving a new substance to our integration efforts in the
Union State.

Overall, our trade and economic cooperation has been
developing successfully. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began, our trade
exceeded $35.5 billion. It is with good reason that Belarus ranks first among
our economic partners throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States. Naturally,
the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the general situation, including
in trade, but I would not describe this impact as considerable. Our trade
decreased only slightly.  Our common
objective is to relaunch the growth of trade this year and to overcome all the
negative consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which have affected our
economies one way or another.

Importantly, Russia holds top place when it comes to accumulated
investment in Belarus; it exceeded $4 billion in 2020. There are some 2,400
companies with Russian capital in Belarus. When Mr Golovchenko and I were
preparing for this meeting, we spoke on numerous occasions about the importance
of building up our interaction, creating as many joint ventures as possible and
encouraging Belarusian and Russian businesses and entrepreneurs to join
projects in our common space.

Russian-Belarusian talks

Relations between Russia and Belarus are absolutely
unique. Their main underlying feature is the many-years long industrial ties.
There are joint value chains and mutual supplies of components in a number of
industries. I would like to mention major joint projects in the automobile
industry, agriculture, forestry equipment and chemical products. It is vital to
create as comfortable conditions for our businesses as possible and, of course,
to launch new collaborative projects.

 I would like to once again congratulate all of us on
the launch of the Russian-built first reactor of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant,
which attained design capacity on 12 January. This unique project is to be
implemented for many decades, and I hope that it will open up new cooperation
opportunities in the high-tech sphere.

I also want to highlight our joint measures to combat
the COVID-19 pandemic. On 4 January, we delivered another batch of test kits
for diagnosing the coronavirus infection. Under a decision by President of the
Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of Belarus Alexander
Lukashenko, a joint facility for the production of the coronavirus vaccine is
being set up in Belarus.

In addition to economic cooperation matters, we
traditionally prioritise our cultural and humanitarian ties, mostly cooperation
in education, science and culture. Last year, we accomplished a great deal in
this field. I believe that we should also study opportunities for joint events,
visits by our scientists, teachers and actors throughout 2021. I hope we will
discuss all of this today in detail.

Mr Golovchenko, you have the floor.

Russian-Belarusian talks

Roman Golovchenko: Thank you, Mr
Mishustin.

Mr Mishustin,
members of the Government of the Russian Federation, members of the Government of the Republic of Belarus.

Indeed, this is our
first visit to the Russian Federation this year. And it is quite
natural, because Russia
is our closest partner and ally, and we have a very extensive and positive
agenda for the talks, and we sincerely appreciate your kind invitation and the
way you so promptly organised this meeting of high-ranking participants.

We have regular
contacts with your side; last year, we even lost count of the times we met at
different venues and discussed various topics. This is how it should be in the Union State
where we have many common challenges and a rich agenda for cooperation.

You very correctly
noted the positive trends in our trade and economic collaboration, despite all
the difficulties. Russia is
traditionally our country’s largest trade and economic partner, and accounted
for 44 percent of Belarus’s
foreign trade in goods and services over the 11 months of 2020 we evaluated. We
really do hope that with December, the figures will be even higher and Russia’s share will
probably approach 50 percent.

We have not seen
any critical decline in mutual trade despite the difficulties you mentioned, with
COVID, although we have indeed lost about 20 percent of
the total. This year, I think there is every prerequisite in place for
overcoming this recession. The situation is fully manageable. We have
significant reserves in industry, agriculture, and construction, and I believe direct
contacts aimed at achieving results in the current conditions are a priority
for both governments and, accordingly, agencies and business entities of our
states.

The development
of cooperation at the regional level is also very important. Last year, we started
a fairly intensive series of mutual visits and exchanges. Heads of the Russian
regions, governors accompanied by high-ranking delegations visited the Republic of Belarus attending packed business
programmes. Return visits have already begun, and those are nothing like tourist
trips. I have seen important documents signed as a result of those exchanges, and
plans and programmes adopted. Those were substantive meetings filled with very
specific content, something that must be supported in every possible way, as
was decided at the 7th Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions, which took
place in Minsk
last autumn. It is obvious to all unbiased observers that thanks to the ongoing
constructive interaction between the heads of state, between the two governments,
we are resolving all matters in an absolutely constructive spirit, and not only
current issues, which abound, but also those of a system-wide nature. 

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