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Austrian businessmen praise Belarus economy liberalization

Austrian business circles highly appreciate the steps taken by the Belarus government to liberalize the economy and improve the investment climate, said representatives of the Austrian business circles at a meeting with Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov. The Belarusian Foreign Minister visited Austria on 17-18 December, it was learned from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

The Belarusian Foreign Minister held negotiations with Austrian Minister for European and International Affairs Michael Spindelegger and Minister for Finance Josef Proell.

The sides discussed future development of Belarusian-Austrian bilateral relations in political, trade, economic and other areas as well as matters concerning Belarusian-European relations, including cooperation within the EU-sponsored Eastern Partnership Initiative. The sides expressed mutual interest in expanding the productive and mutually beneficial cooperation, reached an agreement to step up the political dialogue, contacts between ministries of the two countries, to improve the legal base of the bilateral relations.

Sergei Martynov also met with President of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce Christoph Leitl. The meeting touched upon prospects of stepping up the trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Austria. The Austrian side expressed readiness to step up contacts between the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, including the holding of joint events to highlight the economic and investment potential of Belarus in Austria.

Matters relating to investment, trade and economic cooperation were also discussed at meetings with top executives of the Raiffeisen bank and the Austrian Control Bank.

Representatives of Austrian business circles expressed interest in actively using the emerging opportunities to expand their presence on the Belarusian market, in particular, taking into account prospects of the Customs Union creation.

In 2008 Belarus-Austria trade went up 23.7% to $254.4 million (Belarus’ export totaled $36.9 million, import - $217.5 million). Due to the financial and economic crisis in January-October 2009 the trade shrank by 30.7% in comparison with the same period of last year to make up $139.6 million. Belarus’ export went down by 31.5% to $22.1 million, import – 30.5% down to $117.5 million.

In 2008 Belarus attracted $945.6 million in investments from Austria (the third position among main investors). In January-September 2009 Belarus attracted $700.3 million in investments from Austria (second to Russia only).

In early 2009 there were 18 representative offices of Austrian companies in Belarus along with 69 enterprises with a share of Austrian capital, including 40 joint ventures and 29 foreign-owned companies. Their total registered capital amounted to $57.8 million.

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