Diplomatic relations between Belarus and the United States were established on December 28, 1991. The Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in the United States of America of was opened in Washington, D.C. in 1992.
Following the establishment of diplomatic relations between Belarus and the U.S., a solid foundation for political, economic and humanitarian cooperation between the two countries was laid. Visits of the President of the Republic of Belarus to the United States were carried out in 1995, 2000 and 2005, including for taking part in the work of the UN General Assembly. In 1994, the U.S. President paid a short visit to Belarus.
However, since 1997 the United States has been implementing the policy of ”selective engagement“ with regard to Belarus, which resulted in the decline of interstate cooperation. In 2007–2008, the U.S. imposed restrictive economic measures against the oil and chemistry concern Belneftekhim. Those U.S. actions elicited the escalation of bilateral relations. Belarus was compelled to recall its ambassador to the U.S. and constrict its diplomatic presence in the U.S.
Belarus has never been interested in deteriorating relations with the U.S. On the contrary, normalizing relations has always been one of priorities of Belarus' foreign policy. Belarus advocates development of bilateral ties with the U.S. on the basis of mutual respect and partnership.
Representative delegations of the U.S. Congress visited Minsk in June 2009 and October 2010, and met the President of the Republic of Belarus and the leadership of the country. The level of contacts between the Belarusian side and the U.S. Administration was elevated. In December 2010, the first meeting over the recent years was held between the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus and the U.S. Secretary of State, following which a joint statement on cooperation between Belarus and the U.S. on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation was adopted. Belarusian – U.S. cooperation in international organizations and in combating international terrorism was expanded.
Despite certain contradictions in the political sphere, trade and economic relations between Belarus and the United States have been successively developing until recently. The United States was one of the leading trade partners of Belarus, ranking from fifth to sixth in terms of trade turnover with the countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States. In 2007, bilateral trade turnover reached the highest level of $740.8 million.
However, following the imposition by the U.S. authorities of economic sanctions against the “Belneftekhim” concern, the flow of Belarusian exports was redirected from the U.S. market to markets of other countries.
The U.S. continued to pursue the policy of sanctions toward Belarus in 2011. In August 2011, sanctions were imposed on four enterprises of the “Belneftekhim” concern. Nevertheless, in 2010-2011, the tendency of revival of bilateral trade with the U.S. has taken shape: Belarusian exports in 2011 totaled $86.1 million. The volume of bilateral trade turnover also grew, reaching $642.7 million. Belarus exports to the U.S. metal products, oil products, glass fiber, casein, synthetic fibers, flax fibers, woodworking articles, optical products, furniture, and foodstuffs.
Foreign Trade between Belarus and the U.S. (US$, million)
The total amount of U.S. foreign investments in the Belarusian economy almost doubled in 2011 compared with 2010, making up $137.8 million.
U.S. Investments to Belarus, 2004-2011 (US$, million)
The United States is one of the largest investors in the Belarusian economy: as of January 1, 2012, the number of joint ventures and foreign enterprises registered in Belarus with the American capital made up 282. Large American companies such as Honeywell, Cisco Systems, Navistar, ArvinMeritor, Microsoft, Siguler Guff have demonstrated an increased interest in doing business with Belarus, and established in spring 2010 a Belarus – U.S. Business Cooperation Council. A number of American high-tech companies are registered as residents of the Belarusian High-Tech Park and have their representative offices in Belarus. In 2010, a representative office of Microsoft was opened in Belarus.
Cooperation with American charitable organizations which render Chernobyl-related assistance to Belarus is continuing. In 2011, the United States has become one of the leaders among the donor countries in terms of the volume of charitable assistance to Belarus, which was $15.1 million.
American charitable organizations, which form the Children of Chernobyl U.S. Alliance, had provided post-Chernobyl recuperation and medical treatment in the U.S. for 1100–1200 Belarusian children annually. These programs were suspended in 2009 due to the need to sign an intergovernmental treaty between Belarus and the U.S. on the recuperation of children.
Effective is cooperation between Belarusian and American law enforcement authorities on preventing high technology crimes, countering illicit trafficking in psychotropic substances, combating trafficking in persons and spread of child pornography in Internet.
Latin America’s presence on the international stage is being continuously strengthened because of dynamic economic growth of this region. The economy of the countries in the region is steadily on the rise. In 2013, GDP growth in Latin America made up 3.1 percent. The most vibrant economic growth in 2013 was demonstrated by Paraguay (13 percent), Panama (7.5 percent), Bolivia (6.4 percent), Ecuador (4.9 percent), Chile (6.3 percent) and Peru (4.4 percent).
Latin American countries possess a vast potential to promote economic interests. The region, which population has approached 600 million people, which total GDP has exceeded 4.5 trillion dollars and which 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.
Belarus maintains diplomatic relations with 31 out of 33 Latin American countries.
Belarus has its embassies in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador as well as honorary consulates in Brazil, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
The list of ambassadors of Belarus concurrently accredited to Latin American States is steadily enlarging.
In Belarus, there are embassies of Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela, honorary consulates of the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay. Diplomatic missions of several Latin American States are cross-accredited in Belarus. In April 2013 ambassadors of Chile, Mexico, Guatemala and Peru to the Russia obtained concurred accreditation to Belarus (with residence in Moscow, Russia).
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 2013, trade turnover of Belarus with Latin American countries made up $1,053.3 million, with Belarusian exports exceeding $644.5 million, imports amounting to $408.7 million. The largest share in Belarusian exports belongs to fertilizers and high-tech products.
Strategic partnership between Belarus and 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. In July 2013 the newly elected President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro paid first official visit to our country which resulted in signing of the program document called “Road-map of cooperation between Belarus and Venezuela”.
Avenues of bilateral cooperation were specified during visits of Belarusian governmental delegations to Venezuela in 2006-2012. An official visit of the President 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. In March 2013 President of the Republic of Belarus Alaxandr Lukashenko participated in the mourning ceremony for deceased President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez.
Fruitful Belarusian-Venezuelan cooperation led 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, assembling plant of heavy road-construction machinery 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 up to 5,000 trucks and 10,000 tractors annually at the machinery-building enterprises, 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 Belarus Alexander Lukashenko paid his first official visit to 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. In 2012 — 2013 the sides made an exchange of delegations of businessmen.
Brazil has traditionally been among the most important trade partners of Belarus in Latin America.
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 Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Colombia 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 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.
In 2013 a range of important events marked bilateral relations between Belarus and Latin America. In April 2013 Ambassadors of Mexico, Chile, Peru and Guatemala presented credentials to President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.
In July 2013, the first official visit of President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro to our country was held, in September the first official visit of President of Bolivia Evo Morales to our country was organized, in October the first official visit of President of Ecuador Rafael Correa to our country took place, and in December Vice-President of the Republic of Ecuador J.Glas Espinel visited our country.
These visits resulted in a range of principal agreements. Following the visit of President of Venezuela the program document regarding strengthening the cooperation between Belarus and Venezuela was worked out. During the visit of President of Bolivia the agreement about the establishment of joint trade and economic commission was reached (its first session was held in December 2013 in Minsk and in April 2014 in La Paz was held its second session). During the visit to Belarus of Vice-president of Ecuador in December 2013 the first session of joint trade and economic commission took place in Minsk.
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 600-million fast developing region could be a viable alternative to our traditional markets.