Turchin: Belarus seeks to keep agricultural subsidies after WTO entry
Belarus plans to keep the current volume of agriculture industry support as it joins the World Trade Organization, Belarus' First Vice Prime Minister Aleksandr Turchin said in the interview with the ONT TV channel on 14 July, BelTA has learned.
"I am sure we will be able to uphold the positions regarding the current volume of agricultural subsidies in the country, or maybe even higher volumes. We have some reserves where we can make concessions but we see the red lines that we cannot cross. I think we will reach an agreement with partners," Aleksandr Turchin noted.
In general, every country should give its consent to Belarus' accession to the WTO. "If there are any questions, we are ready to sit at the negotiating table, ready to compromise but these compromises should not be to the detriment of our country," he said. All partners and the leadership of the WTO noted that the progress of Belarus is obvious. "We have set some deadline for ourselves, namely the 12th Ministerial Conference to be held in Nursultan next year. We are planning to harmonize all positions and advance to the final stage by the end of 2019 or first quarter of 2020 at the latest," Aleksandr Turchin said.
The WTO will open new markets for Belarusian exporters and will not allow the country to close its market from imports. But, according to Aleksandr Turchin, the main competitors are not overseas but inside the Eurasian union. First of all, these are companies of Russia and Kazakhstan. Belarusian manufacturers got used to competing with them. So there will be no shocks from the WTO accession. "For us the goal was a single customs tariff, which was harmonized in the the Eurasian Economic Union. Therefore, we are not going to go below it. Only for some exceptional groups of goods that we do not produce. In my opinion, nothing will change here," Aleksandr Turchin noted.
In addition, the WTO will become a platform where Belarus will be able to defend the interests of domestic business if there is discrimination in certain markets. "Absolutely no matter whether it is a state-held or private enterprise, we will fight for them as these are companies of our country, our taxpayers," Aleksandr Turchin noted.
According to Aleksei Bogdanov, Head of the Central Office for Foreign Economic Activities of the Belarusian Agriculture and Food Ministry, the Belarusian negotiating team tries to ensure the important aspect, namely the safety for agriculture, to enter the WTO on such conditions so as not to hurt either segment of the market. Much has been achieved in this direction.
According to him, the important point of the WTO accession for Belarus is to get access to the quotas on preferential access of agricultural products to markets. In addition, Belarus regularly has to deal with restrictions that Russia imposes in respect of domestic products. In the WTO the country will get an additional opportunity to discuss such controversial issues.
Aleksei Bogdanov also stressed that the amount of agriculture subsidies will not decrease. "We are trying to keep them at that level which we find essential for our agriculture. All numbers have been repeatedly calculated. We are working to ensure the opportunity to support, in case of force majeures, our agriculture and to keep the volume of production at the current level or even higher," he said.
As BelTA has reported, on 12 July Geneva played host to the 11th meeting of the WTO Working Party on Accession of the Republic of Belarus. It was attended by delegates from more than 50 member countries of the WTO. Representatives of the United States, the EU, Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, India, China, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Vietnam, Canada, Turkey, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia and other countries supported the efforts of the Belarusian government to accede to the WTO and expressed the willingness to actively work with Belarus in 2019 for the early conclusion of the negotiation process.
The Belarusian delegation led by Belarus' First Vice Prime Minister Aleksandr Turchin included Economy Minister Dmitry Krutoi, Finance Minister Maksim Yermolovich, Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade Minister Vladimir Koltovich, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Yeudachenka as well as representatives of the Agriculture and Food Ministry, the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus, the Justice Ministry, the Healthcare Ministry, the Communications and Informatization Ministry, the Industry Ministry, the State Customs Committee, the State Standardization Committee, the state food industry concern Belgospishcheprom, the state light industry concern Bellegprom, the National Center of Intellectual Property, and the permanent mission of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations office and other international organizations in Geneva.