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Lukashenko wants Belarus' national interests protected as EEU Customs Code is adopted

MINSK (BelTA) – We need to protect Belarus' national interests as the Customs Code of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is adopted, President Alexander Lukashenko said at the meeting on the draft agreement on the EEU Customs Code on 9 December, BelTA has learned.

Alexander Lukashenko noted that Belarus is an export-oriented country that also imports many products. “The Customs Code is the principal document regulating these relations. We always say that export is of vital importance to us. It brings foreign currency to our country which is used to ensure decent standard of living,” the head of state noted.

“Therefore, this document should be thoroughly elaborated, so that not a single Belarusian citizen, including me, asks our government, which has been responsible for the drafting and consideration of the Code, what real results it has brought about and why the situation in some aspects has become worse than before. Whatever compromise the Code carries (I do not rule out that compromises are possible in certain aspects), but we can by no means let the social and economic situation in Belarus become worse,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

“Everything should be properly considered and coordinated with ministries, agencies, and regional executive committees. And also district executive committees, if necessary. It is necessary to involve all specialists, even those with opposing points of view, and communicate the provisions of the document to them, to the citizens of our country. This should be done immediately in order to give people time to provide feedback and say what is beneficial for us and what is not,” the President said.

He emphasized that the document in question is very important for Belarus. “I also pay so much attention to the new Customs Code, because we have certain questions to the system guided by the current Customs Code. I have asked the current Prime Minister, who has been heading Belarus' negotiating group, many questions, because everything should be taken into account,” Alexander Lukashenko added.

The relevant document, according to the President, is expected to be signed at the session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Saint Petersburg on 26 December. Alexander Lukashenko noted that before he makes a decision, Belarus would like to hear the views of the authorized officials and especially those who will put their signatures on the draft treaty. “These are all members of government and senior officials,” he said.

“Everyone who will be working with the document will be held accountable for any decisions that will lead to any shortcomings. Everyone bears personal responsibility,” Alexander Lukashenko stressed.

He noted that the Belarusian economy has been operating within the Eurasian Economic Union for almost two years. “The results are known. I have spoken about this more than once. The trade in the union dropped by some 40% last year. This year, we have seen a 15% decline. These are the results we have,” the head of state said.

Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that with the economic opportunities that are opening up for Belarus, the country lives in a context of the stiff global competitive environment, and has to address the arising challenges and threats. “This is why the adoption of the Customs Code is a very important stage in the development of integration processes. It is necessary to ensure that Belarus' national interests are protected,” the President stressed.

Alexander Lukashenko recalled that in November he instructed the Belarus President Administration and the State Control Committee to review the draft of the new Customs Code together with experts and scientists and make conclusions. “Now it is necessary to give an objective evaluation to the document, consider all its advantages and disadvantages, calculate the potential results and consider all the possible risks that may arise with its adoption. Despite the positive feedback from the government agencies, research organizations, I still doubt that our national interests are properly reflected in the document,” the Belarusian leader said.

He asked whether the new Code takes into account the previous integration agreements and the changes in the geopolitical situation and Belarus' key EEU partners. “And, most importantly, does it take into account the previous mistakes that are unacceptable for us, first of all, from the standpoint of economy?” the head of state wondered.

Alexander Lukashenko requested a report on the potential contribution of the Customs Code to the development of the investment climate, improvement of Belarus' transit appeal, protection of Belarusian manufacturers, and the economic security of the country. “After all, will we be able to make decisions on these economic issues in Belarus? Or the decisions will be taken by someone else for us?” the head of state asked.

In this context, he mentioned the situation in the European Union that is often criticized for that fact that many important economic decisions are made in Brussels, while the member states have little say in the matter. “This wave has swept across Europe. So I do not want us to become such outside observers in this process,” the President said.

Alexander Lukashenko wondered whether it is too early to delegate the decision-making on customs regulations from the national level to the supranational one.

“The government reports that in the result of the negotiation process, for the first time Belarus has managed to convince the EEU member states to accept our idea to gradually reduce the quotas for duty-free import of goods by individuals. However, I have been informed that the draft Customs Code does not formalize this agreement. So I have a question: what is the guarantee that the parties will observe the reached agreements and will not change their position once the document is signed?” Alexander Lukashenko said.

The head of state also asked about the benefits that Belarus is getting from EEU's import customs duties in the light of the recent changes. “If we get some benefits – fine. But if we suffer losses, as I have understood from your report, then why do we need such union?” Alexander Lukashenko said addressing Finance Minister Vladimir Amarin.