Belarus’ full-fledged participation in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership could boost its foreign trade, Yaraslaw Ramanchuk, head of the Ludwig von Mises think tank in Belarus, said at an international conference titled, "EU-Belarus: Outlines of Partnership," which was held in Minsk on Saturday.
According to Mr. Ramanchuk, the EU’s imports total up to $68,000 billion, with imports from Belarus constituting 0.63 percent of the amount. In particular, he said, Belarus accounts for 0.2 percent of the UK’s imports, 0.97 percent of the Netherlands’ imports and 0.6 percent of Italy’s imports.
Belarus has self-isolated from participation in the European economy, is very poorly integrated into the trading process of EU member countries, including the countries that joined the bloc in 2004, said Mr. Ramanchuk. The goods that Belarus exports to Europe are not marked by variety, innovativeness and competitiveness, he noted. Mr. Ramanchuk linked the poor trade with the EU to the protracted WTO accession process, impediments to investment and the lack of progress in privatization.
To ensure the most efficient use of the Eastern Partnership for the development of foreign trade and integrate Belarus into the European economic system, the Belarusian government should sign an association agreement with the EU, establish a special agency for European integration affairs, unilaterally abolish visa requirements for citizens of EU member countries, and create real free trade regimes with the countries participating in the Eastern Partnership, Mr. Ramanchuk said.