The 25 years of diplomatic relations between Belarus and the United States have seen ups and downs. But we have always been mindful of the importance of maintaining good and fruitful relations with Washington. The United States became the second country in the world to establish diplomatic ties with Belarus, and back then it was a big occasion for the new independent country of Belarus.
I believe that our Western partners, the United States, understand that Belarus has always been a net donor of European and international security. 20 years ago Belarus, unilaterally and unconditionally, relinquished possession of nuclear weapons and removed them all from its territory. With our U.S. and European partners, we seek to deliver input to managing global and regional problems, to countering modern challenges and threats. In 2011, Belarus offered its rail network to transport cargo to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Belarus and U.S. joined forces in combating illicit trafficking in nuclear material. In 2014, Belarus proposed to conduct on its territory negotiations on resolving situation in Eastern Ukraine, and the Minsk agreements have been universally recognized as the only instrument that can lead to sustainable peace in Ukraine.
Full normalization of Belarus – U.S. relations has been one of the priorities of Belarus’s foreign policy. It is rewarding that over the last four years there has been a positive momentum in the development of our bilateral relations. We have enjoyed limited but steady and consistent progress, and we have avoided pitfalls and mistakes as contacts between the two countries become more intensive and new opportunities were explored.
On a vast majority of international issues, our values and viewpoints are shared with the United States. In the United Nations, our Government has recently supported the global outreach of the U.S. to curb production of fentanyl, an extremely dangerous and lethal drug. A few days ago, at the U.N. General Assembly the U.S. co-sponsored a Belarus’s resolution to combat trafficking in persons.
With the Trump Administration, we are engaged in political and sectoral dialogues on a number of issues of mutual interest and concern. It is through honest and respectful dialog that we forge understanding and common ground on matters where we may have some disagreements, like the pace of human rights reforms in Belarus.
The areas of Belarus – U.S. engagement which possess significant potential is trade and investment. This potential has yet to be fully explored, but there are factors where progress is already observed and where we can demonstrate how serious and promising a partner Belarus is.
Belarus is an export-oriented state with a well-developed production sector, services sector and agriculture. Belarus is a global leader in the export of freight vehicles, tractors, road construction and municipal equipment, potash fertilizers, flax fibers, dairy products, butter. Our open pit dump trucks have 30 percent of the global market. In 2013, Belarusian Automobile Plant produced the world’s biggest dump truck, its load capacity is 450 tons and the monster is listed in the Guinness Book of Records.
Belarus is 38th in the World Bank’s Doing Business out of 190 economies covered in the study. Belarus Government is following the path of macroeconomic stabilization and structural reforms using the expertise of international financial institutions, particularly the IMF and World Bank.
Belarus trade with the U.S. is not insignificant: over 1 billion dollars annually both ways counting both goods and services. Trade is balanced – we import more goods from the U.S. but we sell more services. The U.S. is a significant investor in Belarusian economy. There are about 400 enterprises with U.S. capital active in Belarus. There is a growing interest on the part of U.S. corporations in Belarus, it being part of the Eurasian Economic Union.
The last two years saw increased contacts between business communities, especially at a regional level: in 2016-2017 Belarusian business delegations visited Texas, Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Pennsylvania.
In June 2017 the Belarusian National Exposition featuring tech and IT sectors was organized at eMerge Americas high-tech exhibition in Miami Beach, Florida. That was the first ever Belarus National Exposition in the U.S.
Belarus is particularly proud of the export of its computer services to the U.S. and worldwide. In the past several years Belarus has earned the reputation of the leading “IT country” in the Eastern European region. This is naturally becoming a new brand for Belarus. According to the Global Services 100 rating, the Republic of Belarus placed 13th among the 20 leading countries in the sphere of IT outsourcing and high-tech services. Moreover, three companies with Belarusian roots entered the top-100 of the largest world companies in this sphere: EPAM Systems, IBA Group and Intetics Co.
EPAM Systems (NYSE: EPAM) became the first IT services provider in the history of the Central and Eastern Europe region which floated its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. The company’s market cap has increased more than fivefold since the IPO.
Providing special business environment for IT business, Belarus Hi-Tech Park (HTP) is one of the largest and fast-growing IT clusters in Central and Eastern Europe. Currently, 187 IT companies with over 31,000 software engineers are registered as HTP residents. More than 60 percent of them are foreign companies and joint ventures. About 3,000 new jobs are created in HTP companies annually.
In 2016, the HTP exports equaled USD 820 million, with the export share in the total revenue reaching 90 percent. Since 2006, HTP has grown at a rate of 25-30 percent annually. 92 percent of the software produced in the Park account for exports. 49 percent account for the European countries, 44 percent – for the U.S. and Canada.
Five out of 10 world’s largest companies, according to Forbes Lists, are among HTP customers. About 1 billion people in over 150 countries use mobile apps developed by HTP residents.
Belarus is famous for its strong computer programming school. There are 51 universities in Belarus and 16 thousand graduates with ICT and related technical skills annually.
If the current growth trend continues, the volume of Belarus computer services sold to the U.S. will exceed half a billion dollars in 2017. We take pride in the fact that we sell such volumes of products of the human brain to the most technologically advanced country in the world.
Web resources to further explore opportunities of economic and investment cooperation with Belarus: www.belarus.by, www.investinbelarus.by, www.export.by.
text and photo courtesy of Embassy of Belarus in the U.S.
Mr. Pavel Shidlovsky
Charge d’Affaires, a.i. of Belarus in the U.S.
Mr. Shidlovsky has been Chief of Mission of Belarus in the United States since April 2014. Before coming to the U.S., Mr. Shidlovsky served as Director of U.S. and Canada Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, overseeing political and economic cooperation of Belarus with the United States and Canada.
Between 2004 and 2008, Mr. Shidlovsky served in the Embassy of Belarus in the U.S. as Counselor covering economic, political, science and technology, humanitarian, educational issues. Prior to that, since 2001, he was Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus managing the private office of the Foreign Minister. His first foreign posting was in Canada where he served as Second Secretary and Vice Consul for three years.
Mr. Shidlovsky joined diplomatic service in 1993, after having graduated with honors from the Minsk Linguistic University as linguist and interpreter from English and French. Mr. Shidlovsky also graduated with honors from the Academy of Administration under the aegis of the President of Belarus in 2011 as specialist in international relations. In 2011, he received an award of the Presidential Administration of Belarus for outstanding performance in foreign service.