Belarus

Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
July 5, 2016

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Executive SummaryShare    

The Government of Belarus (GOB) officially welcomes foreign investment, which is seen as a source of new production technologies, jobs, and hard currency. The Investment Code of the Republic of Belarus (passed on June 22, 2001) is the regulatory framework governing all forms of investment activities in Belarus. Several presidential edicts and decrees have been issued that also regulate investment activities.

Belarusian authorities note the geographic location of Belarus, its inclusion in the Eurasian Economic Union (which also includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan), robust infrastructure, highly-skilled workforce, and six free economic zones as reasons to invest in Belarus.

The government has placed a priority on investments in pharmaceuticals; biotechnology; nanotechnologies and nanomaterials; petrochemicals and chemicals; mechanical engineering industry and production of machines and equipment; transport and related infrastructure; civil engineering; production of construction materials; agriculture; the food industry; information and communication technologies; and tourism.

Regulations on investment provide for the following forms of investment activities in Belarus:

  • Green field: establishing a legal entity (joint ventures and foreign enterprises);
  • Brown field: property or property rights acquisition, i.e.: share in charter capital, real estate, securities, intellectual property rights, concession, equipment and other permanent assets.

The government has been very cautious to privatize state property; investments in sectors dominated by state-owned enterprises have, at times, come under threat from regulatory bodies.

The government also claims there are no specific requirements for foreigners wishing to establish a business in Belarus. Investors, whether Belarusian or foreign, allegedly benefit from equal legal treatment and have the same right to conduct business operations in Belarus. However, according to numerous informal sources in the local business community and independent media, the existing laws and practices often discriminate against the private sector, including foreign investors, regardless of the country of their origin.

In April 2011, Belarus established the state organization “National Agency of Investments and Privatization,” which was tasked with facilitating and expediting foreign investment and privatization in the economy. The Agency has focused on organizing fact-finding missions to Belarus, joint investment and business forums abroad, and packaging investment proposals for potential investors.

Nevertheless, both the central and local governments’ policies often reflect an old-fashioned Soviet-style distrust of private enterprise – whether local or foreign. Although technically the legal regime for foreign investments should not be less advantageous than the one for domestic investments, FDI in many key sectors and many of the most profitable business areas in Belarus is not welcomed. For example, refining crude oil, trade in tobacco and alcohol, lotteries, etc. have been taken over by private domestic businesses connected to the Presidential Administration.

FDI is prohibited in the following areas:

  • defense and security issues in Belarus;
  • production and distribution of narcotic, dangerous and toxic substances.

Table 1

Measure

Year

Index or Rank

Website Address

TI Corruption

Perceptions index

2015

107 of 168

transparency.org/cpi2015/results

World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”

2016

44 of 189

doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/belarus/

Global Innovation Index

2015

53of 141

globalinnovationindex.org/userfiles/file/reportpdf/GII-2015/country/Belarus.pdf

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)

2015

N/A

 

World Bank GNI per capita

2014

USD


7,340

data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign InvestmentShare    

Attitude toward Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Belarus (GOB) claims attracting FDI is one of the priorities of the country’s foreign policy, and net inflows of FDI have been included in the list of government performance targets since December 2015. The GOB claims there are no specific requirements for foreigners wishing to establish a business in Belarus. Investors, whether Belarusian or foreign, allegedly benefit from equal legal treatment and have the same right to conduct business operations in Belarus by incorporating separate legal entities. However, the existing laws and practices often discriminate against the private sector, including foreign investors regardless of the country of their origin.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

According to the GOB, the UNCTAD reviewed Belarus’s investment policy in 2009 and made recommendations regarding the improvement of its investment climate. http://unctad.org/en/Docs/diaepcb200910_en.pdf

Laws/Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign investment in Belarus is governed by the July 12, 2013 law “On Investments,” legal acts of the President of Belarus, and other legislation as well as international and investment agreements signed and ratified by Belarus.

The GOB claims there is no executive or any other interference in the court system that could affect foreign investors. In reality, however, there have been instances of executive interference in the judiciary that have harmed foreign investors’ operations in Belarus.

The GOB regularly updates the following websites with the latest in laws, rules, procedures and reporting requirements for foreign investors: http://www.investinbelarus.by/en/

http://www.economy.gov.by/

Business Registration

Belarus has a regime allowing for a simplified taxation system for small and medium-sized, and foreign-owned businesses.

Belarus has an investment promotion agency, named the National Agency of Investment and Privatization (NAIP), which was established in May 2010 for the purpose of facilitating foreign investment. NAIP is tasked with representing the interests of Belarus as it seeks to attract FDI into the country. The Agency claims it is a “one-stop shop” for

  • organizing fact-finding missions to Belarus, including assisting with visa formalities;
  • providing information on investment opportunities, special regimes and benefits, state programs, and procedures necessary for making investment decisions;
  • selecting investment projects;
  • providing solutions and post-project support (aftercare).

The services are available to all investors.

Belarus defines enterprises as follows:

  • Micro-enterprises – less than 15 employees;
  • Small enterprises – from 16 to 100 employees;
  • Medium-sized enterprises – from 101 to 250 employees.

Industrial Strategy

According to the GOB’s Strategy for Attracting FDI, the priority sectors, which need FDI include pharmaceutics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, production of new materials, and information and communication technologies. The NAIP maintains a database of investment proposals at http://www.investinbelarus.by/en/invest/base/.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The GOB claims foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

The GOB also claims there are no general (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. In reality, however, the GOB establishes such limits on a case-by-case basis.

The limits on foreign equity participation in Belarus are above the average for the 20 countries covered by the Investing Across Sectors indicators in Eastern Europe and the Central Asia region. Belarus, in particular, limits foreign equity ownership in service industries.

Sectors such as fixed-line telecommunications services, electricity transmission and distribution, and railway freight transportation are closed to foreign equity ownership. In several other sectors, including media and insurance, foreign ownership is limited to a less-than-50% stake. In addition, a comparatively large number of sectors are dominated by government monopolies, including, but not limited to, those mentioned above. Those monopolies, together with a high perceived difficulty of obtaining required operating licenses, make it difficult for foreign companies to invest in Belarus.

Privatization Program

Belarus has no privatization program. The president of Belarus noted on several occasions that any state-owned enterprise in the country could be privatized partially or completely provided an investor offers a good price. It is believed, however, that what the government would assess as a “good price” and what a potential investor would assess as a “good price” would be quite different. The country does have a list of open-joint stock companies which stocks are available for privatization. The list www.gki.gov.by/auction/auinf/auishares includes basic information on privatization conditions, and sometimes a brief description of assets listed for privatization.

Interested investors are encouraged to forward a brief letter of interest to the State Property Committee. Letters are reviewed by a special commission that decides on the feasibility of preparing a decision of the President on privatization of shares via tender, auction, or direct sale. The investor may also send a letter of interest regarding assets that are not on the State Property Committee list and the government will examine such offers.

The State Property Committee occasionally organizes and holds privatization auctions. Many of the auctions organized by the State Property Committee have low demand as the government conditions privatizations with strict requirements, including preserving or creating jobs, launching a successful business project within a limited period of time, etc.

Screening of FDI

Although the GOB claims that it does not screen, review, or approve FDI, the above practices prove the opposite. Belarus is still very much a soviet-style command economy, which prescreens and approves all significant foreign investment.

Competition Law

Belarus’s Economy Ministry is responsible for reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns (whether domestic or international in nature).

2. Conversion and Transfer PoliciesShare    

Foreign Exchange

According to the GOB, the foreign exchange regulations do not include any restrictions or limitations regarding converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with investment. Foreign exchange transactions related to FDI, portfolio investments, real estate purchasing, and opening bank accounts are carried out without any restrictions.

Foreign exchange is freely traded in the domestic foreign exchange market. Foreign investors can purchase foreign exchange from their Belarusian rubles accounts in Belarusian banks for repaying investments and transferring it outside Belarus without any restrictions.

Since June 1, 2015, the JSC Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange has traded the U.S. dollar, the euro, and the Russian ruble in a continuous double auction regime. Local banks submit their bids for buying and selling foreign currency into the trading system during the entire period of the trading session. During the trades the bids are honored if and when the specified exchange rates are met. The average weighted exchange rate of the U.S. dollar, the euro, and the Russian ruble set during the trading session is used by the National Bank as the official exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble versus the above-mentioned currencies from the day on which the trades are made. The cross rates versus other foreign currencies are calculated based on the data provided by other countries’ central banks or information from Reuters and Bloomberg. The stated quotation becomes effective on the next calendar day and is valid till the new official exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble versus these foreign currencies comes into force.

The IMF has listed Belarus’s exchange rate regime in the “floating exchange rate“ category.

Remittance Policies

There have not been reports of problems exchanging currency and/or remitting revenues abroad.

3. Expropriation and CompensationShare    

According to Article 12 of the Investment Code, nationalization and requisitioning shall only be possible if it is subject to the timely and full compensation of the cost of the nationalized or requisitioned investment assets and other damages caused as a result of nationalization or requisition.

Belarus has signed nearly 60 bilateral agreements on the mutual protection and encouragement of investments. According to such agreements, neither party may expropriate or nationalize investments either directly or indirectly by means or measures similar to expropriation or nationalization, for purposes other than public benefit or according to the appropriate legal procedure.

Expropriation of private property sometimes occurs in Belarus in the form of de-privatization. That is, the government sometimes seeks to secure majority share in some joint stock companies under various pretexts, e.g. securing the interests of workers, long loss-making record, etc. Some successful local businessmen have been forced out of business through bureaucratic methods. In the recent past there have been instances of confiscation of business property as a penalty for violations of law. Although under the Investment Code, fair compensation for the expropriated property should be offered, the government usually refers to breaches of domestic laws and offers no compensation.

Confiscations are not usually related to any particular industry and are not targeted exclusively at international firms. Both foreign and domestic assets sometimes become subject to expropriation and sometimes to the benefit of businesses under the control of the Presidential Administration.

4. Dispute SettlementShare    

Legal System, Specialized Courts, Judicial Independence, Judgments of Foreign Courts

The Belarusian legal system is a civil law system with clear separation of branches, institutions etc., and with the main source of law being legal act, not precedent. Article 44 of Belarus’s Constitution guarantees the inviolability of property. Article 11 of the Civil Code safeguards property rights.

Belarus has a written and consistently applied commercial law, which is to a wide extent codified. However, the law contains many inconsistencies and is not always business friendly.

Each of Belarus’s six regions and the capital city of Minsk has economic courts to address commercial/economic issues. In addition, the Supreme Court has a judicial panel on economic issues. In 2000, Belarus established a judicial panel on intellectual property rights protection. Under the Labor Code any claims of unfair labor practices are heard by regular civil courts or commissions on labor issues. However, the judiciary is not independent from the executive and therefore cannot always provide a reliable and impartial mechanism for resolving disputes.

Bankruptcy

Belarus has a written law adopted on July 13, 2012 and several presidential edicts on bankruptcy, which are not always consistently applied, especially with regard to state-owned companies. Some other legal acts, e.g. the civil code, also include certain regulations on bankruptcy-related issues.

Under the bankruptcy law, foreign creditors have the same rights as Belarusian creditors.

Belarusian law criminalizes false and intentional insolvency as well as concealing insolvency. According to the World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business Report, Belarus was ranked 14 in Resolving Insolvency (rankings available at: http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings).

Investment Disputes

The GOB has no statistics on investment disputes in 2015. There were no known investment disputes with American investors in 2015.

International Arbitration

Judgments of foreign courts are accepted and enforced if there is a relevant international agreement signed by Belarus. Courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards. International arbitration is accepted as a means for settling investment disputes between private parties. In principle, the government of Belarus accepts binding international arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and the state, although the Embassy is not aware of any cases where this has been put to the test.

The Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has an International Arbitration Court.

The July 12, 2013 law on mediation, as well as codes of civil and economic procedures, established various alternative ways of addressing investment disputes.

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Belarus is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment

Disputes (ICSID) (also known as the Washington Convention). It is also a member of

the New York Convention of 1958 on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. The enforcement of arbitral awards in the Republic of Belarus is governed by Chapter 28 of the code of Economic Procedure.

Duration of Dispute Resolution – Local Courts

Local economic court proceedings do not normally exceed two months. The term of such proceedings with the participation of foreign persons is normally no longer than seven months, unless established otherwise by the international agreement signed by Belarus.

5. Performance Requirements and Investment IncentivesShare    

WTO/TRIMS

Belarus is not a WTO member but announced in April 2016 it will step up efforts to join the organization. Belarus has previously committed to hasten efforts to join the WTO without taking corresponding decisions to speed up its possible entry into the WTO.

Investment Incentives

The GOB claims foreign entities have the same investment opportunities as Belarusian ones.

Belarus has signed about 60 bilateral investment agreements. Such agreements routinely provide for:

  • national or most favored treatment;
  • minimum standards;
  • no expropriation for reasons other than for the public benefit; on a nondiscriminatory basis; according to the appropriate legal procedure; and on conditions of fair compensation;
  • other guarantees.

Belarus has six free economic zones (FEZ) “Minsk,” “Brest,” “Gomel-Raton,” “Mogilev,” “Grodnoinvest,” and “Vitebsk.” (See Section 16)

Industrial Park “Great Stone”

In 2011, the governments of Belarus and China signed an intergovernmental agreement to create a 91.5 sq. km industrial park near Minsk. The project, called Great Stone, allegedly provides attractive conditions for doing business. Any company, regardless of the country of capital origin, can become a resident of the industrial park. The Great Stone park is modeled on the basis of the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (PRC). (See Section 16).

Performance Requirements

The host government does not mandate local employment. Foreign investors have the right to invite foreign citizens and stateless persons, including those without permanent residence permit, to work in Belarus provided their labor contracts comply with Belarusian law. The GOB often imposes various conditions on permission to invest, and pursues “forced localization” policies on a case-by-case basis. Other performance requirements are often applied uniformly to both domestic and foreign investors.

Data Storage

According to official Belarusian information, data storage is not subject to licensing. Law enforcement regulations governing electronic communications do not include any requirements in regard to foreign IT providers. Beginning in 2016, IT providers are required, by law, to maintain all electronic communications for a one-year period.

6. Protection of Property RightsShare    

Real Property

Property rights are enforced by the Civil Code. Mortgages and liens are available. The property registry system is reliable. Investors and/or duly established commercial organizations with the participation of foreign investor (investors) have the right to rent plots of land as established by edict 667 of the President of Belarus of December 27, 2007.

For information on the ease of “registering property” see the World Bank’s Doing Business Report rankings available at: http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings).

Intellectual Property Rights

Belarus continued to work to improve respect for IPR, including through continued enforcement of its legislation, in 2015. There have been some improvements in the overall situation compared to years past. Some trade and software development companies noticed positive developments regarding software piracy, including increased enforcement efforts by the Ministry of Interior. However, there continues to be inflows of counterfeit consumer goods, largely from Russia. The government took steps toward the end of the year to amend the administrative and criminal codes to increase the punishment for violations of IPR; these amendments will take effect in 2016.

Information provided by the government of Belarus on the IPR situation in 2015 indicates a continued commitment to protecting IP rights and erecting an appropriate legal framework. For example, in 2015 Belarus passed amendments to increase fines for various IPR violations under the Administrative Code and to introduce criminal liability for repeated IPR violators, who received previous administrative penalties.

In September 2015, Belarus signed the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty on Coordinated Protection of Intellectual Property Rights, which seeks to establish a single system of IPR protection throughout the Eurasian Economic Union area. Belarus has not yet ratified the treaty.

While Belarus does not have a separate law that obliges public authorities and organizations to use only licensed software, under Belarusian law, public procurement of intellectual property is only allowed from a holder of exclusive rights of the property.

In 2015, Belarus completed its three-year presidency of the regional group of countries of Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). According to the government of Belarus, during its presidency, Belarus took an active part in drafting international agreements and other WIPO documents. With assistance from WIPO and the Eurasian Patent Office, Belarus continued to implement a comprehensive upgrade of the National Center of Intellectual Property’s automated systems, which should better address the needs of users of the national patent system. Belarus conducted several national seminars, with the assistance of WIPO and the European Commission, to address best practices in fighting IPR violations.

The U.S. government recognized Belarus’s commitment to protecting intellectual property rights through the passage of amendments that increased fines for IP violations under the Administrative Code and added criminal liability for repeat IP offenders in 2015. These improvements led to the determination that Belarus should no longer be on USTR’s Special 301 Report Watch List. However, the U.S. remains concerned about the prevalence of counterfeits and continued obstacles to effective enforcement IPR, and expects Belarus to continue improving its IPR regime as part of its World Trade Organization accession negotiations. The United States will continue to assist Belarus with technical consultations to that end.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides 186 Country Profiles. These are available at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

Resources for Rights Holders

Ms. Monica Bland
Chief of Political/Economic Section
tel.+375 (17) 210-1283, ext. 4196
e-mail: usembassyminsk@state.gov

7. Transparency of the Regulatory SystemShare    

The government states that its policies are transparent and the implementation of laws is consistent with international norms to foster competition and establish “clear rules of the game.” However, independent economic experts note that private sector businesses are often discriminated against in relation to public sector businesses. In particular, state-owned enterprises often receive government subsidies, benefits and exemptions, including cheaper loans and debt forgiveness. Such beneficial treatment is not usually available to private sector companies.

According to Belarusian legislation, drafts of laws and regulations pertaining to investment and doing business are subject to public discussion. Draft legislation is published on the government agencies’ websites.

Seeking to become more competitive globally, many large Belarusian companies adopted or are in the process of adopting international financial reporting standards (IFRS).

Belarus has no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations.

8. Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio InvestmentShare    

The Belarusian government welcomes portfolio investment and has taken steps to safeguard such investment and ensure a free flow of financial instruments. The Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange is open to foreign investors, but it is still largely undeveloped because the government only allows companies to trade stocks if they meet certain criteria, which are burdensome for many and particularly so for private companies. Private companies must be profitable and have net assets of at least Euro 1 million. In addition, any income from resulting operations is taxed at 24%. Finally, the state owns more than 70% of all stocks in the country, and the government does not seem to be willing to trade in them freely.

Bonds are the predominant financial instrument on Belarus’s corporate securities market.

In 2001, Belarus joined Article VIII of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, undertaking to refrain from restrictions on payments and transfers under current international transactions.

Loans are allocated on market terms and foreign investors are able to get them. However, the discount rate of 22% (as of May 1, 2016) makes it too expensive for many private businesses, which, unlike many state-owned companies, receive no subsidized (interest free) loans.

Starting in March 2016, Belarus’s National Bank allowed businesses to buy and sell foreign exchange at the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange through their banks. Previously they could only buy or sell foreign currencies from or to banks.

Money and Banking System, Hostile Takeovers

Belarus has a central banking system. The country’s main bank, the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus, represents the interest of the state. It is the main regulator of the country’s banking system and it is also an emission center. The President of Belarus appoints the Chairperson and Members of the Board of the National Bank, designates auditing organizations to examine its activities, and approves its annual report. As of January 1, 2015, the banking system of Belarus included 31 commercial banks. According to the National Bank, the share of troubled loans in the banking sector was 11.5 percent as of April 1, 2016. Three of the country’s four largest commercial banks are fully state-owned and account for 70-75 percent of the total assets of the country’s banking sector. Some economic experts, including from international financial institutions, have noted growing concern regarding the share of troubled loans in the banking sector. To the best of the Embassy’s knowledge, rules on hostile take-overs are clear, and applied on a non-discriminatory basis.

9. Competition from State-Owned EnterprisesShare    

Although the number of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) is smaller than that of private businesses, SOEs dominate the economy in terms of assets. Their share in Belarus’s GDP is at least 75 percent. Belarus does not consider joint stock companies, even those with 100 percent government ownership of the stocks, to be state-owned and generally refers to them as part of the non-state sector. Thus, statistics regarding the role of SOEs in the economy are not reliable.

According to independent economic media reports, private businesses are often discriminated against in relationship to SOES in terms of access to government contracts, subsidized credits, and debt forgiveness.

SOEs are allowed to purchase or supply goods or services from private sector/foreign firms.

SOEs are generally subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors.

Private enterprises are generally disadvantaged against SOEs in terms of preferential access to land and raw materials.

Since Belarus is not a WTO member, it is not a party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Belarus has a $186 million State Budget Fund of National Development, which is used for implementing major economic and social projects in the country.

10. Responsible Business ConductShare    

Information unavailable.

11. Political ViolenceShare    

In the Embassy’s estimation, the potential for widespread, politically-inspired violence that would adversely affect foreign property interests is low.

12. CorruptionShare    

Belarus has effective and non-discriminatory anti-corruption legislation, which includes certain provisions of the Criminal Code and Administrative Code as well as the Law on Public Service and the Law on Combating Corruption. The latter is the country’s main anti-corruption document. It was adopted on July 2015. Government organizations directly engaged in anti-corruption efforts are prosecutors’ offices, internal affairs and state security agencies.

Belarusian anti-corruption law covers family members of government officials and political figures. The country’s regulations require addressing any potential conflict of interests of parties seeking to win a government procurement contract. The list of such regulations include the July 13, 2012 law On public procurement of goods (works, services), the December 31, 2013 Presidential Decree On conducting procurement procedures, and the March 15, 2012 GOB resolution on the procurement of goods (works, services).

Bribery is considered a form of corruption and is punishable with a maximum punishment of ten-year imprisonment and the confiscation of property.

Belarus is a party to a number of international anti-corruption conventions and agreements.

The Republic of Belarus has consistently ratified and complied with requirements of main international anti-corruption acts, such as the Convention of the Council of Europe 173 “On criminal liability for corruption (S 173)” (concluded in Strasbourg on 27 January, 1999); The United Nations Convention “Against Transnational Organized Crime,” signed by Belarus in Palermo on 24 December, 2000, and the United Nations Convention “Against Corruption” (concluded in New York on 31 October, 2003); the Civil Law Convention on Corruption (concluded in Strasbourg on 4 November, 1999) (ratified in 2005). Belarus also signed a number of the intergovernmental agreements to address this problem.

According to the GOB, Belarus provides protection to NGOs involved in investigation of corruption crimes.

According to Belarus’s General Prosecutor’s Office, the greatest number of corruption crimes in 2015 was accounted for among government officials and in health care.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Belarus signed and ratified in November 2004 the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Belarus has not joined the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions but is currently considering to do so.

13. Bilateral Investment AgreementsShare    

Belarus has signed bilateral investment agreements with:

1. Armenia

2. Austria

3. Azerbaijan

4. Bahrein

5. Bangladesh

6. Belgium

7. Bosnia and Herzegovina

8. Bulgaria

9. Cambodia

10. Cape Verde

11. China

12. Croatia

13. Cuba

14. Cyprus

15. Czech Republic

16. Denmark

17. Egypt

18. Estonia

19. Finland

20. France

21. Germany

22. Great Britain

23. India

24. Israel

25. Italy

26. Jordan

27. Iran

28. Iraq

29. Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

30. Korea, Republic of

31. Kuwait

32. Kyrgyzstan

33. Laos

34. Latvia

35. Lebanon

36. Libya

37. Lithuania

38. Luxemburg

39. Macedonia

40. Oman

41. Pakistan

42. Poland

43. Qatar

44. Romania

45. Saudi Arabia

46. Serbia

47. Singapore

48. Slovakia

49. Slovenia

50. Sweden

51. Switzerland

52. Syria

53. Tajikistan

54. Turkey

55. Turkmenistan

56. Ukraine

57. United Arab Emirates

58. United States

59. Venezuela

60. Vietnam

61. Yemen

According to the GOB, Belarus is also a party to the following agreements:

  • Free Trade Agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and its Member States, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam;
  • Treaty on Eurasian Economic Union;
  • Agreement on Trade in Services and Investment in the Member States of the Common Economic Space of Belarus-Kazakhstan-Russia;
  • Agreement on Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments in the Member States of the Eurasian Economic Community;
  • Convention on Protection of Investor Rights;
  • Partnership and Cooperation Agreement Establishing a Partnership between the European Communities and Their Member States, of the One Part, and Belarus, of the Other Part;
  • The Energy Charter Treaty.

Belarus is a party to the Agreement between the Government of Republic of Belarus and the Government of the United States of America on Promotion of Capital Investment (24 June 1992). Belarus and the United States also signed the Agreement between the Republic of Belarus and the United States of America on Stimulation and Protection of Investments (Minsk, 15 January, 1994), however the agreement did not enter into force.

Belarus has been a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank since December 1992. In July 2011, Belarus ratified amendments to the Convention on Establishing MIGA and concluded agreements on the legal protection of guaranteed foreign investment and the use of local currency. According to Belarus’s Economy Ministry, these agreements finalized procedures for Belarus to become a full member of MIGA.

Bilateral Taxation Treaties

Belarus is a successor of the USSR in the Convention between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America on Matters of Taxation (Washington, 20 June 1973). The U.S. has discontinued negotiations with Belarus on the development of a bilateral taxation treaty. Belarus has forty-five such agreements with other countries.

14. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance ProgramsShare    

Under Paragraph C (Prohibition on Loans and Investment) of Section 5 (SENSE OF CONGRESS RELATING TO SANCTIONS AGAINST BELARUS) of the Belarus Democracy Act signed by the President on October 20, 2004, “No loan, credit guarantee, insurance, financing, or other similar financial assistance should be extended by any agency of the United States Government (including the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation) to the Government of Belarus, except with respect to the provision of humanitarian goods and agricultural or medical products.”

15. LaborShare    

Belarus has a highly skilled and well-educated work force, due to its advanced system of higher and specialized education. Wages are much lower than in Western Europe, the United States, and even Russia.

Belarus has been a member of the International Labor Organisation (ILO) since 1954 and is a party to almost 50 ILO conventions.

Belarus’s Labor Code regulates all labor issues. Although businesses are allowed to offer unlimited fixed term contracts for permanent tasks and termination of redundant workers is legally allowed without notice to the government, large-scale down-sizing often faces government opposition. Severance pay in case of reduction in force is 13 weeks of salary, and 8 weeks notice is required for dismissal. Normal work hours in Belarus are 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. Belarusian law is stringent in limiting overtime hours. Nevertheless, it is allowed to establish a non-standard work hour regime without fixing the number of work hours. In that case an employee must be provided with up to 7 days of additional annual leave. In general, employees must be granted at least 24 calendar days of paid leave a year.

There are special provisions on employing foreign citizens who have no permanent residence permit. Such citizens have to secure a work permit, which can be usually granted only if an unemployed Belarusian citizen cannot perform the required work. To date, the Embassy has not heard of discriminatory or excessively onerous visa, residence or work permit requirements inhibiting foreign investors, nor of restrictions placed on the numbers or duration of employment of foreign managers brought in to supervise foreign investment projects. In practice, however, few firms employ significant numbers of foreigners, apart from Russian citizens, who benefit from Russia’s and Belarus’ common employment regulations streamlined under the Customs Union and Single Economic Space arrangements of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

In July 2000, President Clinton signed a proclamation withdrawing benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for Belarus. This decision was based on a 1997 American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) petition to the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The petition alleged that Belarus was not acting in accordance with the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, regarding internationally recognized worker rights. These include the freedom to form independent trade unions and the right to organize and bargain collectively. The rights of independent trade unions are often subject to government attack, as documented in the Department of State’s Report on Human Rights Practices for 2015. According to the Report, “authorities harassed and at times dismissed from their jobs members of independent unions in state-owned enterprises, severely limiting the ability of workers to form and join independent trade unions and to organize and bargain collectively. Authorities also employed various means of forced labor.” According to the same report, “[Belarus’s] law establishes minimum conditions for workplace safety and worker health, but employers often ignored these standards. Workers at many heavy machinery plants did not wear minimal safety gear. The state labor inspectorate lacked authority to enforce employer compliance and often ignored violations. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security was responsible for enforcement of these laws.”

16. Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade FacilitationShare    

In November 1998, President Lukashenka signed a law on free economic zones (FEZ) in Belarus. At present, each of Belarus’s six regions has its own free economic zone. The tax and regulatory scheme applicable to businesses in these zones is, in principle, much simpler than elsewhere in Belarus. Tax benefits for businesses inside the zones include, import tariff, real estate and VAT exemptions, and reduced income tax and lease payments. In October 2005, the President signed an edict that established uniform rules for all FEZs. To apply for opening a business in a FEZ, a company has to present a business project, which envisages at least one million Euro investment.

In June 2012, Lukashenka signed an edict on the establishment of a Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park, which is expected to help attract $5 billion worth of Chinese and other foreign investments in Belarus’s economy. According to top government officials, residents of the Park will receive unprecedented preferences and benefits, unavailable elsewhere in Belarus. The government urges foreign businesses to invest primarily in projects in machine building, chemistry, biomedicine, household appliances and electronics. More up-to-date information on the Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park can be found on the website of the Belarusian-Chinese Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation. http://www.belaruschina.by/en

17. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment StatisticsShare    

According to official statistics, Belarus received $1.6 billion in FDI in 2015, of which 85% were reinvested profits. According to Belarus’s Economy Ministry, the top ten foreign investors in Belarus included Russia (38%), Cyprus (32%), United Kingdom (3.6%), China (3%), Lithuania (2.5%), Netherlands (2.4%), Germany (2.1%), U.S. (1.9%), Poland (1.9%) and Turkey (1.3%). The capital city of Minsk received 57% of all FDI in Belarus.

Fields of economy that attract the most FDI include:

  • trade (45.1 percent),
  • transportation (31.2 percent),
  • communications (2.6 percent),
  • computer technologies (2.4 percent),
  • real estate (1.8 percent),
  • agriculture, hunting, forestry (1.5 percent),
  • financial operations (1.2 percent),
  • construction (0.8 percent)

For detailed statistics on foreign direct investments in Belarus for 2010-2014 see the website of Belarus’s National Bank http://www.nbrb.by/engl/statistics/ForeignDirectInvestments/

For the latest available statistics on foreign portfolio investments in Belarus see the website of Belarus’s National Bank http://www.nbrb.by/engl/statistics/PortfolioInvestment

18. Contact for More InformationShare    

Ms. Monica Bland
Chief of Political/Economic Section
46, Starovilenskaya St., Minsk, 220002, Belarus
tel. +375 (17) 210-1283, ext. 4196
email: usembassyminsk@state.gov