He reminded that in the Soviet times Belarus, Leningrad and Moscow had very close ties. Supplies from Belarus fully satisfied the demand for foodstuffs in Leningrad and Moscow. “I think we have vast experience in this field, we should not stop doing it, we need to restore our links,” the Belarusian head of state said.
He noted that this pertains not only to sales, but also to joint production and marketing of agricultural produce, machinery, science-intensive goods, etc. “If St. Petersburg is interested in cooperation, you should say it straight. We will consider proposals within a day and make a decision,” the head of state said. He added that Belarus is very much interested in boosting cooperation with Saint Petersburg.
"We have never fenced off from Russia, all the more so from Leningrad and St. Petersburg. It is sacred. We are very much interested,” the Belarusian head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that a day before the Prime Minister of Belarus and he discussed cooperation with St. Petersburg. The President instructed the Premier to thoroughly analyze all the issues and find answer to all the questions.
Addressing the Saint Petersburg delegation, the President emphasized that cooperation prospects have already been studied; they include not only the production industry, but also the humanitarian field. “You are always welcome here. It is not just zeitgeist; I mean what I say,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
Georgy Poltavchenko said cooperation in agribusiness is high on the agenda. He stressed that Belarusian products are in demand in St. Petersburg and boast high quality.
The program to create a commodity distribution network consisting of 50 shops to sell Belarusian goods in St. Petersburg.
When speaking about the interstate program of trade, economic, scientific, technical and humanitarian cooperation till 2016, Georgy Poltavchenko expressed confidence that the program will help attract Belarusian agricultural producers to the market of St. Petersburg and give a strong impetus to the development of economic cooperation.
He pointed out the effectiveness of relations with Belarus. Speaking about the bilateral trade, he remarked that in 2011 the trade turnover was close to $1.7 billion, 30% up from 2010. In January-March 2012 mutual trade increased by 5% over the same period last year to reach almost $400 million. Belarus' export totalled $265 million.
“The most important thing is that there is a potential and space to grow into. Apart from trading we can create science-intensive products. There are also real opportunities for manufacturing cooperation,” the Governor said.
At the meeting Alexander Lukashenko and Georgy Poltavchenko discussed opportunities to forge cooperation in agriculture, industry, construction, transport and logistics, scientific and technical cooperation.
Georgy Poltavchenko suggested establishing a transport and logistic corridor from Belarus to Saint Petersburg. In this connection, Alexander Lukashenko said that it is possible to increase cargo shipment through the ports of Leningrad Oblast.
The parties also discussed supplies of Belarusian passenger and municipal vehicles to Saint Petersburg. The day before the meeting with the President, the delegation visited Belkommunmash and expressed interest in buying the company’s vehicles.
The head of state assured that Belarus will be able to manufacture and supply virtually the entire range of the necessary machinery.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia Andrei Kobyakov noted that the two parties need to step up manufacturing cooperation and switch from simple trade to joint assembly facilities. After all, the SES allows Belarusian producers to take part in government procurement contracts in Russia.
The parties hold similar views on state property management and privatization.
“If we do not handle it (state property), we will sell it for sure, but at an adequate price,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
“Absolutely right. We should approach it pragmatically. We should learn the lesson from our (Russian) wild privatization of the 1990s. We are still fighting the aftermath. The country and its people should make most of privatization. We are doing the same now. A company can be managed well or badly, and it does not depend on whether it is a private business or state-run property.
During the meeting Alexander Lukashenko and Georgy Poltavchenko emphasized the importance of the unity of Belarus and Russia time and again.
The head of state said that some time ago there was lack of understanding between Belarus and Russia. “Fortunately, this is already over, I hope; there is a different perception of the processes on the post-Soviet space now. At last Russia has fully realized that first of all it needs to get united and gather around what it used to have around. We do not need to pressurize Russia. We have always been and will always be in the same boat with Russia. There is no other way for us or for Russia,” the President said.
The Saint Petersburg Governor emphasized, “I know that President of Russia Vladimir Putin understands that. I think there is a reason why Belarus will be the first country he is going to visit. In my opinion, it is also an indicator of understanding and determination to pursue a certain policy. The closer ties we have and the greater trust we develop, the easier it will be for us to promote our common interests on the international arena”.
“Many times our common country has made a huge sacrifice for the future of other people; so now we are not going to back down and give someone an opportunity to take advantage of us. The time is different,” Georgy Poltavchenko said.