Our door is open to Chinese investors, Belarus leader says
President Xi Jinping and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko pledged on Monday to inject new momentum into their strategic partnership and economic ties by strengthening cooperation at the local level.[Special coverage]
The vow came a day after they agreed to combine their efforts to build the Silk Road Economic Belt proposed by Xi in September 2013.
Belarus was the final stop in a three-country tour by Xi.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the China-Belarus Local Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, he said his government will encourage provinces to cooperate with regions in Belarus based on their particular characteristics and resources.
This will "foster new growth points for practical cooperation" and help promote economic integration between the two economies, he told 500 participants.
Lukashenko said cooperation at the local level is a bright prospect.
"Our door will be wide open to Chinese investors; you are welcome to invest and set up plants in Belarus," he said, adding that Chinese will benefit from a favorable investment policy and environment in his country.
As a demonstration of the push for closer links, Xi and Lukashenko witnessed the signing of cooperation agreements between eight Chinese provinces and seven Belarusian regions on Sunday.
While meeting the media on Sunday, the Belarusian president said his country would have benefited greatly from developing sound ties with just one of China's provinces.
"But now we already have eight," he added.
Facing declining demand from the West and its giant neighbor Russia, Belarus, with a population of more than 9 million, has been courting trade and investment from the world's second-largest economy.
China has become Belarus' largest trade partner in the Asia-Pacific region, with bilateral trade up 27.3 percent to $4 billion last year in defiance of a weak global economy.
Xi and Lukashenko spoke of their determination to make a jointly developed industrial park a flagship and landmark part of the Silk Road Economic Belt that will connect Asia and Europe.
The 90-square-kilometer high-tech park beside Minsk airport, focusing on high-end manufacturing, chemicals, electronics, information, new materials, bio-tech engineering and logistics, will be open to investors globally, offering preferential policies such as tax breaks and one-stop registration services.
Given its geographic position at the center of Eurasia, Belarus will offer Chinese investors a bridge to both the Eurasia region and the European market, Lukashenko said.
Sun Zhuangzhi, a Russian and Central Asian studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said enhanced teamwork arising from the development of the economic belt will give China "better access to the unique geographic strength of Belarus".
Sun noted that Belarus is "geographically close to both the European Union and members of the Commonwealth of Independent States".
Through stronger collaboration with Belarus, China will find it easier to deliver commodities to the member countries of the two regions, Sun said.
On Belarus' side, greater cooperation with China will boost its economy and help it to avoid isolation, he added.