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New U.S. Sanctions Won’t Affect Three Belarusian Companies Much

New U.S. Sanctions Won’t Affect Three Belarusian Companies Much
Combined Report
Belarus accused the United States on Friday of harming the interests of ordinary citizens by imposing new sanctions on the ex-Soviet state's industry in a row over human rights.
The new sanctions imposed against three Belarusian businesses are not really new, as they only specify the “recipients” of earlier measures, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Andrey Popov said on Friday. “The U.S. has once again demonstrated that its measures aim against ordinary citizens, including the staff of affected companies,” he said.
According to Popov, the U.S. made the move following President Alexander Lukashenko’s statement about the “open and honest position supporting equal and mutually respectful dialogue to normalize Belarusian-American relations.”
Alexander Lukashenko last week accused U.S. diplomats of applying pressure on Belarus and working to worsen relations. "If the Americans think they can build relations from a position of strength, then we don't need such diplomats or relations," he told Reuters in an interview. "If the United States wants to see us as an independent state and build relations on that basis ... the country is open to them."
New U.S. sanctions against three Belarusian firms subordinate to Belneftekhim concern will not have a serious negative effect, a representative in the Energy Ministry told Prime-Tass. The U.S. on Thursday clamped down financially on three firms in Belarus linked to Belneftekhim. The Treasury Department’s action is against OAO Lakokraska, OAO Polotsk Steklovolokno and Belarusian Oil Trade House. Any assets found in the United States that belong to the companies must be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with them.
According to the representative in the ministry, Belarusian Oil Trade House is a subsidiary of Belneftekhim that has been working as an oil trader – buying Russian crude, processing it in Belarus and exporting refined oil. Belarusian Oil Trade House used to invest most of its receipts in OAO Mogilevkhimvolokno, but last year some of the operations were phased down due to new terms of trade.
Like all other refined oil exporters, Belarusian Oil Trade House changed to the euro in all foreign settlements to prevent any negative consequences, the representative said. Besides, the company created a unified trading platform to sell oil and chemical products using electronic solutions. “No U.S. sanctions could affect Internet trading,” the representative added.
As for OAO Polotsk Steklovolokno, which does supply its products to the U.S., it might face problems. “I don’t think the administration of the company failed to take precautions, besides, preventive measures were taken at the government level. Besides Polotsk Steklovolokno’s products are in demand on other markets, and the company may need to find new outlets,” he said.
The management of Polotsk Steklovolokno is taking measures to cut the risk of losses from Washington's sanctions, Deputy Director General Sergey Svershchov told BelaPAN. He said that the management was using "lawyer's and constitutional opportunities," declining to offer additional details. "If I disclose them, I am afraid they will use countermeasures against us," he noted. Sergey Svershchov also would not disclose the company's exports, saying that it was a commercial secret. However, he noted that supplies to the United States were "not big."
When it comes to Lakokraska, which also exports its make to the U.S., the representative with the ministry believes alternative markets have been determined.
The head of Belarus's central bank, Pyotr Prokopovich, told Reuters the sanctions could persuade potential investors to reconsider their plans.
“Firstly, not a single foreign country joined the U.S. But we are working on building up a positive investment image of a country fostering investment in new businesses, small, medium and large, and we are interested in keeping our image positive, Prokopovich said.
“This is why U.S. sanctions, launched by the world’s largest economy, impact our image and discourage foreign investors,” the banker said.
At the same time, he reiterated that “those investors that have been working with us and are aware of the situation in the country will keep investing and working on our market.” “The investment boom in the banking sector is a good signal. Despite sanctions, the banks that know Belarus are ready to invest not only in Belarusian banks, but also in other industries,” Prokopovich said.
“But we most certainly do not welcome any measures that restrain investment. Belarus is interested in foreign investment, and I believe the interest is mutual. The west has excess monetary assets, but recent financial crises have prompted prudent moves, and we must prove their funds will be safe,” Prokopovich said.
Originally, sanctions were imposed on November 13, 2007.
Belneftekhim incorporates 40 firms with 120,000 personnel, accounts for 30% of Belarus’ industrial output and 35% of exports.

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