Trade between the Czech Republic and Belarus has been steadily growing over the past decade, with Czech exports to that country having risen by more 250 percent over the last five years. Belarus has also become an important destination for Czech investors, and its significance is set to rise in light of the Ukrainian crisis.
Belarus is the 33th largest destination for Czech exporters but the country’s significance is rapidly rising, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported. Czech exports to Belarus last year reached nearly 9.5 billion crowns, or around 440 million US dollars. That was 1.6 billion more than in the previous year, and two and a half times more compared to five years ago. Main Czech exports to Belarus include machinery, cars and other industrial products.
The importance of the Belarusian market for the Czech industrial sector has also risen due to sanctions between Russia and the European Union and the crisis in Ukraine. The Czech government has identified Belarus as one of the countries that could help Czech firms recover from losses incurred on markets in Ukraine and Russia.
Several large Czech companies are now in talks with the partners in Belarus on projects worth billions of crowns, according to the report. The largest Czech construction firm, Metrostav is currently building its second logistic terminal in the country, has last week filed its bid to construct a new metro line in the capital Minsk. The deal is worth some 8.2 billion crowns.
“We were originally planning to bid for the construction of one tunnel and one station. But we are now in talks to form a joint venture with the local company Metrostroi to build the first phase of the entire project which means four stations and two tunnels,” the head of the firm’s foreign trade division, Václav Soukup, told the daily.
Other Czech projects that might get underway in Belarus include a paper mill, a small hydro power station, the modernization of an oil refinery, and others. In total, deals worth around 10 billion crowns are now being negotiated, according to EGAP, a Czech state-owned exports insurer.
One reason why Czech companies have been increasingly successful in Belarus is that the Czech Republic seems to enjoy a very good reputation there. “Besides the fact that Czechs are quite popular in Belarus, we have not seen a major credit failure there,” EGAP CEO Jan Procházka said. “Payment discipline in Belarus is much better than Ukraine, for instance,” Mr Procházka added.