The Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a non-governmental non-profit organization, the largest and most notable business association of Belarus. As the oldest business union in the country, the Chamber is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. Vladimir Ulakhovich, Chairman, discusses objectives, goals and current activities.
European Times: What are the main functions and objectives of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry?
Vladimir Ulakhovich: The Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a unique organization with activities regulated by a special Law “On the Chamber of Commerce and Industry”, which clearly stipulates our main goals, functions and tasks. The main points are the integration of the national economy into the world economic system, promotion and expansion of foreign economic relations of the Belarusian business.
Today, more than 2.100 business entities are members of the Chamber. These are both the flagships of Belarusian industry, revenue generating enterprises, as well as new private companies and individual entrepreneurs. Our main goal is to help them secure a foothold on traditional markets and to explore new export destinations.
European Times: What are the services provided by the BelCCI?
Vladimir Ulakhovich: The BelCCI is acting as a bridge between enterprises and their potential foreign partners. The basis of our daily operations is the promotion of domestic companies by arranging business forums, business missions, matchmaking sessions, presentations of Belarusian and foreign companies, exhibitions and expositions of Belarusian manufacturers in foreign countries. At the same time, we assist in attracting foreign businessmen to participate in such events in our country, providing foreign partners with the opportunity to become better acquainted with Belarusian business and to establish necessary contacts for mutually beneficial cooperation.
This year alone, the Chamber has organized more than 500 foreign economic events. Furthermore,all recent visits of our President have been accompanied by business forums which, as a rule, are organized by BelCCI. The President’s presence on our events is an important signal for business, a guarantee of the highest level of support for the agreements reached during the negotiations, thus generating considerable interest among the representatives of business community.
The BelCCI provides a package of services related to the legal support of foreign economic activity, i.e. customs and statistical declaration of the export (import) of goods, confirmation of the authenticity of documents used in international economic operations, witnessing the occurrence of force majeure circumstances, advising on the implementation of foreign economic activities, issuing ATA Carnets, patent and licensing activities, international arbitration, etc. We also support our exporting enterprises by issuing certificates of origin, organizing training programs to study the mechanisms and conditions for accessing foreign markets, and developing information support mechanisms for the activities of Belarusian enterprises.
European Times: How does the BelCCI interact with foreign partners?
Vladimir Ulakhovich: The BelCCI is a member of the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Chambers Federation, the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (EUROCHAMBRES), the Hanseatic Parliament and the Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce.
The Chamber implements long-term cooperation agreements with chambers of commerce and industry and partner organizations of the countries that are traditional and promising trade partners of Belarus. This is the basis that allows us to further develop cooperation, and, most importantly, to support enterprises in export promotion. Representatives of the BelCCI appointed in the perspective regions of the world help us in achieving our goals. At present, 35 BelCCI representatives are appointed in 30 countries. These are reputable businessmen of their countries of residence; they are the support of Belarusian enterprises in entering foreign markets. The business councils set up in cooperation with foreign chambers of commerce and industry is of great importance for the development of BelCCI international activities and serve as another productive tool to develop foreign economic relations. A total of 17 business councils have been established with foreign partners, most of which are held simultaneously with important intergovernmental events.
European Times: What are the Chamber’s current activities and developments?
Vladimir Ulakhovich: Recently there has been a tendency to expand contacts of Belarusian enterprises with partners from new markets. Today, the Chamber is actively paving the way for Belarusian goods to such countries. We are working to expand our cooperation with the partners of the “Far Arc” countries.
At the same time, taking into account the geographical location of Belarus between the West and the East, cooperation with the European countries has always been and will be of great importance to us. Belarus is a “window to Europe” for our eastern partners, and for European entrepreneurs’ cooperation with Belarusian companies is the key to the market of the EAEU. Therefore, a significant part of our events is aimed at creating conditions for expanding contacts with business representatives of the EU countries.
Improving the approaches to services provision is another direction for the development of the BelCCI. Our plan is to become a “one-stop-shop” for business in foreign economic activity, which means that our members should have access to a full range of services related to the implementation of foreign economic activities, including new services, i.e. advising on international and national law; legal, organizational and documentary support of foreign trade operations, registration of enterprises and representative offices in Belarus and abroad; legal examination of documents used in foreign economic operations; pre-trial dispute settlement; customs services.
The Chamber has approved its strategy until 2020. It defines the main BelCCI development directions and is aimed at giving a new impetus to our intention to provide the most up-to-date and demanded high-end services to the BelCCI members actively promoting national exports. Among our main priorities are systematic and assertive promotion of Belarusian products abroad, complementing the range of services in foreign economic activities with legal support services, expanding the portfolio of electronic services, introducing new information technologies into the servicing process, and increasing our brand recognition by using modern marketing tools.
European Times: What is the role of the BelCCI in attracting foreign investments?
Vladimir Ulakhovich: Traditionally, Belarus has been attractive to international entrepreneurs because of its favourable economic, geographical and geopolitical location in the centre of Europe, as well as its economic and social policy, high standard of living, educational, scientific and technological potential, well-developed transportation network, and logistical infrastructure. Additional incentives for doing business in Belarus stem from the rapid development of public-private partnerships, the favourable investment and tax climate, the active role that the country plays in integration processes, legal guarantees, and unique privatization opportunities. The reforms focused on the liberalization of economy and enhancing investment appeal are gaining momentum every day.
In the framework of foreign economic events carried out by the BelCCI, we provide our foreign partners with the widest possible range of information on the investment climate in Belarus as well as on benefits, preferences and projects under way in the country.We are visited by reputable investors and negotiations usually take place during B2B meetings. Entrepreneurs come with specific proposals, business plans and with the desire to start a joint business on mutually beneficial terms. Our task is to bring together business people in Minsk and to provide them with a favourable platform for meetings and negotiations.