Our Analytics 4 february — 15:03

Azerbaijan feels quite well without WTO (Our comment)



At the meeting dedicated to the last year's economic results, President Ilham Aliyev emphasised the importance of the activities of bilateral intergovernmental commissions operating with many countries. The head of state sees the main function of these commissions in exploring new opportunities for the activities of local companies in foreign countries with the aim of exporting Azerbaijani products to these countries and for participating in tenders. Our foreign trade relations are expanding too, and intergovernmental commissions play a significant role in this.

Last year, the government achieved successful performance in foreign trade. And this, according to Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev, was possible thanks to work carried out with the main trading partners of Azerbaijan. First of all, this work was carried out in close connection with neighbouring countries, mostly through intergovernmental commissions, headed from the Azerbaijani side by Shakhin Mustafayev himself. And a 14 per cent increase in non-oil exports was achieved largely as a result of the work of these commissions, which can be clearly illustrated by the example of the main trading partner for non-oil exports: Russia.

Azerbaijan is the largest market for certified products for non-oil exports. Taking this factor into account, on the instructions of the head of state, the first trade mission of Azerbaijan was created in Russia, which has been functioning for more than two years. And today in this country, in addition to trade missions, there are also wine houses. But President Aliyev approved a new road-map reflecting the development of ties between the two countries as part of the intergovernmental commission. This document and the action plan attached to it clearly indicate steps to increase trade between countries. According to the results of last year, the growth of bilateral trade turnover has already amounted to more than 20%. But the road-map provides for new measures to increase trade with Russia. Moreover, not only quantitative, but also qualitative. In particular, the growth of electronic exchange between countries and individual departments, the simplification of the procedures, as well as the improvement of infrastructure support are outlined.

And these are not just notes on paper. It is enough to mention that at the end of last year the construction of the long-awaited new bridge over the Samur River was completed, its opening took place. The implementation of such an important infrastructure project simply cannot but have a positive impact on trade exchange between the two countries, the growth of transit traffic. But within the framework of the intergovernmental commission, work is already underway to implement new infrastructure projects. So, in this and the coming years, the parties intend to do a lot of work to improve infrastructure support at all three border checkpoints.

Meeting of the Azerbaijani-Russian intergovernmental commission

This, of course, will contribute to the growth of tourism, as many Russian tourists arrive in our country by road and rail. It is no coincidence that the number of tourists coming from Russia has recently increased significantly. With this in mind, the issues of introducing the Russian Mir money transfer system in Azerbaijan are already being studied, which will allow to increase non-cash transactions. And if this system will correspond to the Azerbaijani economy and the interests of our country, then in the near future it will be implemented. As a result of applying this system, an increase in tourism opportunities, as well as foreign exchange earnings in Azerbaijan, is expected.

But if the growth of trade relations with Russia in Azerbaijan is traditional, then last year was particularly successful in terms of relations with China. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the participation of President Ilham Aliyev in the Belt and Road Initiative international conference in Beijing. As part of the meeting between the Azerbaijan head of state and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, contracts worth $800 million were signed.

President Aliyev and Chairman Xi

And their implementation has already begun. Compared to previous years, export to China has seen positive growth dynamics; several trading and wine houses have been opened in this country. It is hard to imagine what role the Chinese market can play for agricultural products from Azerbaijan. Thanks to the activities of our trade mission, significant results have already been achieved in the growth of non-oil exports and trade, and relations are developing in other areas. For example, one cannot fail to note the successes in the transport and logistics sectors. Container transit traffic from China through Azerbaijan to Turkey via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is already being provided.

Even with sanctioned Iran, the intergovernmental commission achieved good results. In trade with Iran alone, growth amounted to over 30% per cent. And this result against the backdrop of the difficult situation in the region really means a lot. But Baku, in cooperation with Moscow and Tehran, is steadily developing the North-South transport corridor. Highways are already under construction, railways are being repaired, most of these works in Azerbaijan are close to completion. And the new automobile bridge on the Azerbaijani-Iranian border, as well as the Baku-Russian border highway, which President Ilham Aliyev spoke about in detail on the eve, will lead to an approximately twofold reduction in time losses during the passage of trucks through Azerbaijan. And this will improve the conditions for the movement of trucks in the directions North-South, North-West, South-West and attract new carriers.

Some critics accuse the Azerbaijani government of deliberately hindering accession to the WTO and other international and regional organisations, which, they say, will reveal many shortcomings in the country's economy. But a noticeable increase in trade turnover, including with neighbouring countries, gives rise to doubt such an approach. Only with Turkey, trade last year reached $4 billion, although for a long time the government dreamed of raising this figure to at least $3 billion. Azerbaijan successfully works both in bilateral and in multilateral formats, especially in the energy and transport sectors. As repeatedly emphasised by President Ilham Aliyev, no country can become a transit country without cooperation with its neighbours. And Azerbaijan, which has no access to the open sea, has today turned into one of the international transport centres thanks to a sound policy and mutually beneficial relations with its neighbours. At the same time, the government does not refuse to join the WTO. But only on reasonable terms...

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