Our Analytics 12 july — 12:37

Azerbaijan is no longer a 'poor relative' in the eyes of the French (Our comment)

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BY ELNUR MAMMADOV

Business fora in Baku with the participation of foreign entrepreneurs have long become common. No less is the number of business fora in the capitals of other countries, in which Azerbaijani delegations participate. This is understandable, since Azerbaijan is developing, which is impossible without close cooperation with other states. At the same time, there is a growing interest in our country, whose contribution to the global economy is increasing every year. This was again proved by the Azerbaijani-French business forum held at the Baku Business Centre with the support of the Ministry of Economy, the organisation of the Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO) and the French business organisation MEDEF.

Shahin Mustafayev reads his figures to the French

Speaking at the event, Minister of Economy Shahin Mustafayev said that Azerbaijan is the main trading partner of France in the South Caucasus. And it was not an allegation, the minister substantiated his words with strong evidence. It is not by chance that 62.4% of the total trade turnover of France with the three countries of the South Caucasus falls on Azerbaijan. In the first five months of this year, the trade turnover between the two countries increased by 53% compared to the same period last year. And there is a great potential for increasing the volume and diversifying the structure of trade, expanding the export of non-oil products to France. In the fields of industry, services, communications, trade, banking, insurance and agriculture of the country there are 45 companies with French capital. In general, French companies as contractors participate in projects in Azerbaijan worth $6.2 billion.

As it should be, the minister cited many facts of government support for business and investment, including foreign ones, in order to attract French business to the country. And nothing special arrested one's attention. Except one thing. Earlier in the course of such business fora with delegations of leading economies, the Azerbaijani side acted as a 'poor relative,' trying to solicit more foreign investment. But this time it took the position of an equal partner, which was felt during the entire forum. This is evidenced by the facts.

During the period of independence, investments in the economy of Azerbaijan amounted to $263 billion. Last year alone, $15.3 billion was invested in the economy, of which foreign investment amounted to $8.2 billion. In general, the country's economy is developing steadily, by the end of the year its growth is projected at 3.1%, and in the non-oil sector by 3.4%. The steady development of the economy is also evidenced by the fact that the share of the country's external debt is 19% of GDP. The forecasts of international organisations are also positive. Thus, the World Bank predicts economic growth this year at 3.3%, and the International Monetary Fund - at 3.4%.

As for France in particular, relations with it are lined up on an equal footing. So far, French companies have invested $2.2 billion in the economy of Azerbaijan, while Azerbaijani investments in France are much more - $2.6 billion. And Mustafayev simply noted the need to diversify mutual investments with France, while calling for increased investments in the non-oil sector. Indeed, an analysis of the structure of mutual trade shows that its main focus is still the energy sector, so it is necessary to take measures to expand non-oil trade. That is why the minister stressed the potential for further cooperation between the two countries in the areas of transport and logistics, agriculture, and humanitarian issues.

Yes, imperceptibly for us, the economy of Azerbaijan has grown high and wide so that the country, which a couple of decades ago used to openly announce financial difficulties, began to invest, as we have already written, in the United States, China, Russia. And now here is France. But that's not all, Azerbaijan is actively investing in the European economy as a whole. The volume of our investments in the EU is more than $20 billion. More than $3.5 billion invested in the economies of the four countries partners of the Eastern Partnership program.

But there are questions more important than investments. Azerbaijan plays a very important and strategic role in ensuring EU energy security. And with the development of the strategic project 'Southern Gas Corridor' the role of the country will increase significantly. Together with Turkey and Georgia, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project is being implemented, which is an important part of international transport corridors. However, Azerbaijan's cooperation with the EU is not limited only to such areas as energy and transport. We have a very active cooperation with the European Union in the field of human capital development, education, social protection, etc.

Yes, the European Union, of which France is a part, is one of the key trade partners of Azerbaijan. More than 1600 companies from EU countries successfully operate in the country. Joint business fora are held in Baku to increase the level of relations between the business sectors of Azerbaijan and the EU. More than a thousand representatives of the business sphere took part in this year's forum. Such business fora stimulate trade and investment between Azerbaijan and European countries. And the Azerbaijani-French business forum can surely be said to be no exception.

Yes, the reforms carried out in Azerbaijan, the successes achieved, the country's great potential in the field of transport, the large-scale regional projects being implemented attract the interests of foreign investors. It is no accident that in the 'European Union - Azerbaijan 2019 Business Environment Report' 74% of EU companies rated the macroeconomic situation in the country as strong and satisfactory, and 90% rated the prospects for the macroeconomic situation as good and stable. 75% of companies participating in the EU survey 'Azerbaijan is a place for investment' answered the question 'Would you invest in Azerbaijan' positively, praising the security, political and social stability in the country. All this was brought to the attention of 150 French businessmen who took part in the forum...

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