Belarus ready to offer alternative to Lithuanian products to China: ambassador
Land transport hub expects new record in trade with China
Published: Dec 16, 2021 08:10 PM
Belarusian Ambassador to China Yuri Senko Photo: Li Hao/Global Times

Belarusian Ambassador to China Yuri Senko Photo: Li Hao/Global Times

Belarus is ready to increase exports to China, boosted by the development of the country's agricultural sector, offering an alternative to Lithuanian products that were previously supplied to China, Belarusian Ambassador to China, Yuri Senko told the Global Times, noting the country will support China in the international arena on all other issues including Taiwan question.

Speaking about the current state of China-Lithuania relations and its impact on regional cooperation in Eastern Europe as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Senko stressed that Belarus has always adhered and will adhere to the one-China principle. "We consider the island of Taiwan to be an integral part of China," he said.

"But as we see, not all countries share this principle, apparently pursuing some goals of their own. You are well aware of the situation that has developed with refugees on the western Belarusian border. While the Lithuanians are setting dogs on refugees from the Middle East countries, who are running from wars, constant fear and turmoil initiated by the West, seeking for better life in the EU. Belarus, burdened with sanctions, today is actually coping with the migration crisis alone," the ambassador said. 

As Poland considered cutting off its rail link to Belarus due to their heightened diplomatic tensions over refugees, many Chinese companies were concerned over the knock-on effects as the cross-border rail link remains a vital channel for China-Europe freight trains.

"On behalf of Belarus, I can assure that we will continue to fulfill our obligations to ensure the uninterrupted transit of Chinese goods, as before, and support our strategic partner - China - in the international arena on all other issues," Senko affirmed. 

He suggested Belarus' neighbor - Lithuania, will maintain a rational attitude, think twice before making its next move and evaluate all the consequences of its deeds.

Belarusian major exports to China


Right choice to support BRI

"Being on the Silk Road, Belarus expects to achieve economic growth, including through cooperation with China, using its geographical advantages as a land transport hub on the Eurasian continent and become a link between China and Europe," the envoy said. 

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and rising geopolitical disruptions around the world, Belarus and China have achieved positive trade growth. Senko stressed that China has always been a very important and reliable trading partner for Belarus.

In 2020, foreign trade turnover between the two countries reached a record of $5.4 billion, according to the ambassador. Exports of Belarusian goods and services to China, its second largest trading partner, amounted to $1.2 billion, an increase of 16 percent.

The positive momentum has continued throughout 2021. Bilateral trade turnover for the first three quarters of 2021 increased by 9 percent compared to the same period last year, growing to $4.2 billion. 

"Therefore, I hope that by the end of 2021, we will be able to set a new record in bilateral trade," Senko said in a recent exclusive interview with the Global Times. 

As one of the main supporters of China-proposed BRI, Belarus plays the role of an important logistics and transport hub as the country is on the route connecting East and the West, he noted. "Belarus has made a conscious choice to support the BRI and time has shown that this was the right choice."

More than 90 percent of all railway transportation between China and Europe passes through Belarus, he noted.

"Belarus and China exchange shipment and cargo information, provide access to this data for other transit countries on the route," he said. 

The progress made has been significant. In 2014 there were only 40,000 containers which passed through the territory of Belarus; it had increased 14 times by 2020, reaching 550,000 containers, thanks to the launch of the project of the international logistics terminal "Eurasian Railway Gateway" in China-Belarus Industrial Park "Great Stone."

At present, there are 83 resident companies located in the Industrial Park, and 42 of them are Chinese companies in areas ranging from automotive industry and machinery to the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), according to Senko. 

"We pay special attention to the development of traditional Chinese medicine in Belarus. In particular, soft capsules 'Qingyi' as a drug for the treatment of the coronavirus was registered in the Great Stone Industrial Park," he said. 

On December 3, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed Directive No. 9 on the development of cooperation with China, which also places emphasis on the BRI. "It contains specific, breakthrough areas of bilateral cooperation that will bring Belarusian-Chinese relations to a qualitatively new level," Senko said. 

Minsk bound China-Europe freight train departs from Yiwu in East China's Zhejiang Province on February 10, 2020. Photo: VCG

Minsk bound China-Europe freight train departs from Yiwu in East China's Zhejiang Province on February 10, 2020. Photo: VCG

Diversified cooperation

Belarusian cooperation with China has become increasingly diversified over the past few years, from expanding exporting agricultural products and potash fertilizers, to healthcare, space technology. 

The share of Belarusian food and agricultural products in the exports to China increased by more than 30 percent over the year and has already hit $295 million over the first 10 months of 2021, statistics provided by the ambassador revealed. Exports of Belarusian packaged milk, butter and ice-cream to China are also growing.

In addition, electronic integrated circuits, cellulose, flax, rapeseed oil are in the top positions of Belarus' exports to China, the envoy noted. 

As part of humanitarian and commercial supplies, China's Sinopharm Corporation has already delivered more than 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Belarus, he said. 

"Since the Chinese vaccines have shown its efficiency and safety, by the end of December 2021, another 1.6 million doses of the vaccine will be sent to Belarus, of which we have purchased 1.1 million doses, and receive 500,000 as humanitarian aid," he noted. 

"We are in close cooperation with Chinese authorities on sports, including preparation for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and training arrangements for athletes," Senko said. 

Other prospective highlights for bilateral cooperation include the space and satellite sectors, and a lot of 5G-related projects are under discussion.