Latin America’s hand on the international stage is being continuously strengthened. The economy of the countries in the region is steadily on the rise. In 2011, GDP growth in Latin America made up 4.3 percent. The most vibrant economic growth was observed in 2011 in Panama (10.5 percent), Argentina (9.0 percent), Ecuador (8.0 percent), Peru (7.0 percent), Chile (6.3 percent), and Venezuela (4.3 percent).
Latin American countries possess a vast potential to promote economic interests. The region, whose population has approached 600 million people, whose total GDP has exceeded 4.5 trillion dollars and whose foreign trade turnover exceeded 2 trillion dollars, plays a crucial role in the system of international economic relations.
Under these circumstances, systemic fostering of multifaceted relations of Belarus with the Latin American states and the region’s major integration associations is in line with long-term interests of our country and demonstrates in practice multi-directed and balanced character of the Belarusian foreign policy. Latin America is important for Belarus as one of the springboards for integration into the world trade and economic networks. The economies of Belarus and of the region’s major players complement each other in type and structure.
Today Belarus maintains diplomatic relations with 31 out of 33 Latin American countries (in April 2011 diplomatic relations were established between the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago).
Belarus has its embassies in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba, Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and the Honorary Consulate in the Dominican Republic. The work is underway to establish Honorary Consulates in Brazil, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
In Belarus, there are embassies of Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba, honorary consulates of the Dominican Republic, Peru, Uruguay and Ecuador. Diplomatic missions of several Latin American states are cross-accredited in Belarus. The work is underway to establish the Honorary Consulate of Nicaragua in Belarus.
An important factor to achieve convergence of positions of Belarus and Latin American countries on the international stage is a perceived need for a multipolar world. Belarus and most Latin American countries have similar positions regarding the place and role of the UN, as well as principles of its reform. In these circumstances, the relations between Belarus with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are dynamically expanding; constantly maintained is the process of forging and strengthening a political dialogue with the region’s major players.
In 2011, trade turnover of Belarus with Latin American countries made up $3,498.2 million, with Belarusian exports exceeding $1,737.5 million, imports amounting to $1,760.7 million. The largest share in Belarusian exports belongs to fertilizers and high-tech products.
Strategic partnership between the Republic of Belarus and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is gaining momentum. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez paid an official visit to Belarus in July 2006, and made working visits to our country in June 2007, July 2008, September 2009, and October 2010. The visits resulted in agreements at the highest level on joint implementation of cooperation projects in economic, scientific, technical, and other areas.
Avenues of bilateral cooperation were specified during visits of Belarusian governmental delegations to Venezuela in 2006-2012. An official visit of the President of the Republic of Belarus to Venezuela was held in December 2007, which showcased the National Exhibition of Belarus, the first of its kind in Latin American region. In March 2010 and June 2012, working visits of the Belarusian President to Venezuela took place, during which agreements to further enhance bilateral cooperation were reached and a number of significant documents were sighed.
Fruitful Belarusian-Venezuelan cooperation lead to the establishment of representative offices of Belorusneft, Belgorkhimprom, Belzarubezhstroy, joint enterprises on oil extraction Petrolera BeloVenezolana, seismic survey Sismica BeloVenezolana, gas supply Venezuelagazstroi, MazVen S.A. and VeneMinsk Tractores S.A. Completed is the building of assembly works for MAZ trucks and MTZ tractors, as well as the building of the construction materials plant, which will become the largest enterprise of the kind in South America. It is planned to assemble at the machine-building enterprises up to 5,000 trucks and 10,000 tractors annually, and the products will be delivered not just to the Venezuelan enterprises, but also to the markets of Latin American countries. A joint Belarusian-Venezuelan trade enterprise (trading house) Venbelcom S.A. was registered. Joint Belarusian-Venezuelan High Level Commission and Intergovernmental Belarusian-Venezuelan Joint Commissions on Trade and Economic Cooperation and on Science and Technology have been established and are actively working.
Political engagement and joint production projects are being complemented by cultural, educational and humanitarian cooperation. In May 2010 two Belarusian secondary schools were named after national heroes of Venezuela (school No 114 of Minsk was named after Simon Bolivar, and school No 17 of Gomel was named after Francisco de Miranda).
In April 2009 in Minsk the Latin American Cultural Center named after Simon Bolivar was created to actively promote Latin American Culture.
Deeper interstate engagement with Brazil, a state of 200 million people, is in line with strategic interests of our country. There are objective prerequisites for a broader cooperation of the two countries in trade, economy, research and development, and other areas.
In March 2010, the President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko paid his first official visit to the Federal Republic of Brazil. The opening of embassies in Brasilia (at the end of 2010) and in Minsk (in mid-2011) was the logical continuation of the agreements achieved during the meeting of the two presidents. A delegation of Brazilian businessmen headed by the Governor of the State of Goias Alcides Rodrigues Filho visited Belarus.
Brazil has traditionally been among the most important trade partners of Belarus in Latin America. Positive dynamics of mutual trade with Brazil in 2010, with trade turnover exceeding $862.6 million, made it possible to restore and exceed the pre-crisis level of trade: in 2011 the trade turnover exceeded $ 1,589.2 million.
Strategic cooperation with Cuba enjoys steady development. Active efforts are being taken to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation with Cuba, primarily in economic sphere. As part of efforts to boost trade and economic engagement, the working visit of a delegation of Cuban businessmen headed by Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investments of Cuba was held in February 2011. A wide range of avenues of future Belarusian-Cuban cooperation was discussed.
Working visit of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to Cuba provided a new impetus to the Belarusian-Cuban relations. During the visit, agreements were reached to further strengthen bilateral cooperation and a number of significant documents were signed. As a follow-up to the agreements reached at the highest level during that visit, an official Cuban delegation headed by Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba Marino Murilio visited Belarus from October 15 to 19, 2012. The delegation met the Head of State, Prime Minister, First Deputy Prime Minister, leadership of the National Bank, Ministries of Economy, Finance, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Trade, as well as a number of organizations and enterprises to discuss the state of relations of Belarusian-Cuban relations in different areas and the prospects of their development.
Interstate dialogue with Cuba has gained powerful momentum. The two countries have intensified bilateral cooperation on the international stage – within the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement and many other international organizations. Consultations between foreign ministries of the two countries at various levels have become systemic. Cuba has served as a reliable stepping stone for promoting interests of our country in the states of Latin American region.
Belarus is strengthening diverse interaction with Bolivia, Colombia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and many other Latin American countries.
In June 2012, the first ever official visit of President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to the Republic of Ecuador was organized. The parties discussed the development of trade and economic relations, political engagement, as well as a host of other promising avenues of bilateral cooperation. A number of important documents have been signed.
As a follow-up to the agreements reached at the highest level during that visit, in October 2012 the delegation of the Republic of Ecuador headed by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration Marco Albuja Martinez visited the Republic of Belarus. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, the entire spectrum of issues was discussed, both at bilateral and multilateral areas. Special attention was given to the development of political dialog, as well as trade and economic engagement.
The process of diversification of Belarusian exports to the region is accelerating, modern products manufactured by Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ), Belarusian Automotive Works (BelAZ), Minsk Automotive Works (MAZ), Gomselmash, Belshina, Naftan, Polimir and other exporting enterprises have been introduced to the region and are getting to the local markets. Projects on building assembly lines of modern Belarusian equipment are under consideration.
In the near future political efforts of Belarus in Latin America and the Caribbean will be focused on consolidating long-term relationships with the countries of the region, expanding political dialogue, strengthening legal framework, promoting interests of the Belarusian enterprises, including by establishing joint production, opening trading facilities and representative offices, exchanging business visits, intensifying multilateral engagement within major international organizations.
Development of Latin American markets requires substantial material and intellectual resources. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is confident that securing the presence of Belarusian producers in this fast developing region could be a viable alternative to traditional markets.