Envoy: Latvia, Azerbaijan need to improve economic relations

Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 26

By Anakhanum Hidayatova – Trend:

Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics is expected to visit Azerbaijan in early 2017, Latvian Ambassador Juris Maklakovs told Trend.

During his upcoming visit, the foreign minister will work on organization of a higher level visit, the diplomat said.

He noted that high-level visits between Azerbaijan and Latvia take place regularly.

Speaker of Latvia’s parliament Inara Murniece visited Azerbaijan few months ago, Maklakovs said, adding that he and Murniece invited Ogtay Asadov, speaker of the parliament of Azerbaijan, to visit Latvia the next summer.

The ambassador, praising the political relations between the two countries, expressed concern over the decline in the trade between Azerbaijan and Latvia.

Total trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Latvia amounted to $6.78 million in January-October 2016, which is 8.3 percent less than in the same period last year, according to the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan. Despite that, in the reporting period the export of Azerbaijani goods increased by 19.98 percent, however, the import decreased by 9.98 percent.

Over the recent years, the bilateral trade turnover fell by three times, the Latvian ambassador said. He added that the ways to develop Azerbaijani-Latvian trade turnover are being discussed.

Maklakovs noted that the relations between Azerbaijan and Latvia in the sphere of tourism and culture develop quite successfully, but it is necessary to work on the development of economic ties.

Latvia has already proposed Azerbaijan to consider the possibility of cooperation in the spheres of environmentally friendly technologies, food industry, pharmaceuticals and health tourism during the 6th meeting of Azerbaijan-Latvia intergovernmental commission on economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation in Riga.

Priority areas of cooperation between the two countries include joint investment projects, increasing the volume of trade turnover, effective use of international transportation corridors, education, agriculture, construction, tourism and health.

Latvia's Minister for Transport Uldis Augulis said earlier that Latvia is an important transportation artery and an integral part of the new Silk Road and the North-South transportation corridor.

Ambassador Maklakovs added that a new strategic agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan will certainly become beneficial for both sides. The first agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan was signed in 1996, and a lot has changed in the world since then, he said.

It is necessary to develop new cooperation opportunities and the new agreement will make that possible, he noted.

Latvia has always supported the Eastern Partnership program, and the country will provide the same support for the new agreement, which will be beneficial for both Azerbaijan and Latvia, as a member of the EU, Maklakovs added.

The European Council adopted a mandate for the European Commission and the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy to negotiate, on behalf of the EU and its member states, a comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan on Nov. 14. The new agreement should replace the 1996 partnership and cooperation agreement and should better take account of the shared objectives and challenges the EU and Azerbaijan face today.

The agreement will follow the principles endorsed in the 2015 review of the European Neighborhood Policy and offer a renewed basis for political dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan.

The agreement also envisages the compliance of Azerbaijan’s legislation and procedures with the EU’s most important international trade norms and standards, which should lead to the improvement of Azerbaijani goods’ access to the EU markets.

Currently, bilateral relations between the EU and Azerbaijan are regulated on the basis of an agreement on partnership and cooperation that was signed in 1996 and entered into force in 1999.

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Follow the author on Twitter: @Anahanum

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