BAKU, Azerbaijan, May 18. An Azerbaijan-Lithuania business forum has been held at the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda attended the business forum.
The presidents made speeches at the business forum.
Speech of President Ilham Aliyev: Mr. President.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Today, during the official visit of the President of Lithuania to Azerbaijan, we have come here to take part in a business forum and give advice to business circles, taking advantage of this opportunity to engage in a very active dialogue and get good results. I am aware that a number of documents will be signed today, and I do hope that these documents will create new opportunities for building further work.
Given the strong political relations between our countries – we have been strategic partners for many years, and the current visit of the President once again demonstrates that an active political dialogue has been established – I believe that the time has come to maintain active connections in the fields of economy, trade, investment and other areas.
Of course, the business forum is a good opportunity to inform each other about our plans, the business environment in our countries, opportunities, including investments, as well as establishing business ties. I believe that the joint intergovernmental commission, which will be convened in the near future, will coordinate the efforts of our business circles and create ample opportunities for establishing work in both countries. The issues the delegations will discuss today include trade, investment, agriculture, development of information technology, transport, energy, education, etc. We have a common understanding on all the issues discussed. We also need to achieve tangible results on these issues and determine what more needs to be done to develop cooperation.
I believe that Azerbaijan has created a favorable business environment for investors. We are pleased with direct foreign investment, which amounts to tens of billions. Diversification of the investment portfolio of foreign companies is also very important. Whereas in the early days of our investment programs investments were made mainly in the oil and gas sector, we are seeing foreign direct investment being made in the field of renewable energy now. At the beginning of this year, two major contracts were signed with investors for the construction of a 470 megawatt solar and wind power plant, which is an indicator of a favorable investment environment in the country.
In general, the diversification of Azerbaijan’s economy is our top priority. Of course, the energy sector has traditionally been the leading sector of our economy, and this will continue to be the case. In particular, we have completed the construction of the Southern Gas Corridor, which, for the first time since January 2021, has been transporting Azerbaijani gas to various locations, including the European Union – a system of integrated numerous pipelines with a length of 3,500 kilometers. Of course, the development of the oil sector, which is a traditional branch of our economy, continues to play an important part for achieving our national goals and for the energy security of a number of countries. At the same time, diversification is our main goal, because we understand that without diversification our plans to create a sustainable economy will not be materialized. We see good results there. In general, I can tell you that the results of the four months of this year are promising. Our economy has grown by 7.2 percent. Given the post-pandemic period, this is a very good figure. As for the non-oil sector, the figures are higher, with growth amounting to 11.4 percent. We have a very small external debt, which accounts for only 12.5 percent of the gross domestic product. The goal is to bring it down to 10 percent of the gross domestic product.
Our export potential is growing both due to the growth of gas exports to international markets and reforms in the non-energy sector. This year, exports have grown by 85 percent. Non-oil exports have increased by almost 40 percent. I believe that this testifies to the sustainable development of the country, because the energy potential relies on our natural resources and serves the well-being of the Azerbaijani people, our friends and neighbors. At the same time, growth in the non-energy sector demonstrates the desire and ability of our government to carry out reforms in the economy.
Given the positive demographic situation in Azerbaijan, we must pay constant attention to issues related to unemployment. We have succeeded in reducing the unemployment rate to 5-6 percent. However, in order to maintain it at a low level, we must open new jobs every year, because the population of Azerbaijan has increased from 7 million to 10 million in 30 years – from the day we gained independence to the present, and it is still growing. Therefore, we must have jobs for more people, especially now, when many specialties no longer exist as a result of the fourth industrial revolution. We need to prepare ourselves for new industries. By the way, this issue was the topic of our discussions today. We also spoke about cooperation in the field of education, in particular, education tailored for the development needs of our countries.
We have also discussed issues of cooperation in the transport sector. I believe that for business circles and for cooperation between our countries located quite far from each other, the existence of these sustainable transport routes is very important. We in Azerbaijan have been working on this for many years and have created a diversified transport network. I would call it a new transport map of the region, in the Caucasus, as well as along the Caspian Sea and in Asia. Taking advantage of our geographical location, we have created a modern infrastructure – a seaport, railway communications, several international airports, and highways. We are located on the East-West and North-South transport corridors. I can also tell you that Azerbaijan transports goods from north to west. We have invested heavily in infrastructure. However, it is clear that without good business relations with neighboring countries, no country, especially one like Azerbaijan, which has no access to the open sea, will be able to turn into a transit country. However, although Azerbaijan is a landlocked country, we have turned it into an important transport hub. The role of Azerbaijan will certainly increase even more, because we have recently received a number of new proposals from our neighbors on the use of our transport infrastructure. Of course, as I said, this will be very important for the cooperation between the business circles of Lithuania and Azerbaijan and the search for better ways of communication.
Speaking about the overall economic growth in Azerbaijan, we must touch on the issue of energy security. Today, Azerbaijan provides for its energy security by 100 percent, and also contributes to the energy security of many other countries, including members of the European Union. We export oil, gas, electricity and petrochemical products. Our plans include a significant increase in the volume of exports of gas, electricity and petrochemical products. As for oil exports, both consumers and we are pleased with the current export profile. At the same time, given the current geopolitical situation, it becomes obvious that the need for Azerbaijan's energy resources will be higher than ever before. This year we have already started an energy dialogue between Azerbaijan and the European Union. It covers many areas – oil, gas, electricity, hydrogen and renewable energy sources.
There is complete mutual understanding between us, and we are working with a great desire, because everyone wins under such circumstances. Azerbaijan needs reliable and long-term markets, markets with fair regulation and legislation. And this is the European market. European consumers need additional sources of energy. From this point of view, of course, Azerbaijan is perceived by the European Union as a contributing party. Given our plans to raise the share of renewable energy in our total energy mix to at least 30 percent by 2030, I believe that these plans can be changed. I think that we can foresee the share of renewable energy in our energy mix even at the level of 30 or 40 percent. In this case, of course, the energy generated from renewable sources may be more attractive to European consumers. We are working on that. In this sense, we are on the right track.
In terms of economic sustainability, Azerbaijan is no longer a country receiving foreign aid or international loans. Yes, we do take loans, but we attract them only for high-tech projects. At the same time, we have already become a donor country. We provide loans ourselves. And our reserves can nullify the external debt in a matter of a few months. This is evidence of a good economic situation and allows us the opportunity to correctly plan our further reforms.
I would like to say a few words about our cooperation with the European Union. The European Union is our main trading partner, and this will continue to be the case. We are in the final stages of negotiations with the European Union on a new agreement. Of course, cooperation with members of the European Union, in particular with Lithuania, is of strategic importance for us. I am glad that this cooperation is developing successfully.
Regarding our bilateral trade and economic agenda, I find it quite positive that our economies are not in competition with each other. They are located in various parts of Eurasia. Thus, by joint efforts and projects and by providing more information, we can establish cooperation. I believe that one of the advantages of the business forum being held today is to demonstrate opportunities, the business environment, rules, taxes, investment opportunities and other issues. I am sure that the business delegations of both countries will not miss this opportunity.
Once again, I welcome all our guests to Azerbaijan and wish the business forum success. Thank you.
Speech of President Gitanas Nausėda: Your Excellency President Aliyev,
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honor for me to address you here today. It is with great pleasure that I participate, together with President Ilham Aliyev, in the opening of the Azerbaijan-Lithuania business forum. I am very pleased with the sincere conversation Mr. President and I held today around various topics of great importance for both countries. I cordially greet the business and political circles of Azerbaijan.
We are meeting in an exceptional location. I do hope that this unique and architecturally quite special Center of Culture will bring the business circles of the two states, Azerbaijan and Lithuania, even closer together for the sake of the common good. Ten years have passed since the last visit of my predecessor, the President of Lithuania, to Azerbaijan. My goal is to revive the economic, cultural, political and social ties between the two countries, and to make them closer and more lasting.
In order to further strengthen business ties between our countries, I invite business circles of Azerbaijan to pay a visit to Lithuania in the second half of this year. We have extensive unexplored opportunities for economic cooperation. I see that the role of Azerbaijan in the global economy will increase even more. In fact, the country has already achieved a number of successes. The war in Ukraine regulates global trade in a new way. Azerbaijan, located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, plays and will continue to play one of the most important roles in global trade. A green economy and goals related to innovation are the main criteria that determine your future economic prospects and strength.
My country, Lithuania, has many proposals. There are seven free economic zones in Lithuania with wide financial and tax privileges. We have a high-speed digital infrastructure based on reasonable rates. It is among the best in the European Union. Well-developed highways and railway lines, air and sea transport are other advantages of our country.
I would like to draw your special attention to the Lithuanian seaport of Klaipeda. The sea does not freeze in this area; it is the largest port among the Baltic states. For many years, Lithuania has focused on building a strategically strong and diversified manufacturing sector. Now our country is now working on innovative and high-tech sectors. Powerful production requires stable energy sources. In the past 10 years, we carried out a lot of work on the production of electricity, implemented projects for the construction of a gas terminal and a liquefied gas terminal. The construction of this terminal was completed in 2014. At present, our energy sector consists of solar and wind energy parks. We will soon create the first wind energy park on the Baltic Sea.
The power of the Lithuanian food and agricultural sector is visible in the products of various assortments. As a result, we are exporting our food products to more than 150 countries. Finally, all economic sectors are connected to each other through a skilled workforce. A total of 56 percent of our young population have higher education. According to this indicator, Lithuania is a European Union leader. Lithuania, which became a member of the European Union two decades ago, has achieved economic success. The share of gross domestic product per capita in my country has quickly approached the European Union average. We are second only to Ireland in this regard.
I would like to call on the business community of Azerbaijan to take advantage of the Lithuanian ecosystem as an entry point to the European Union market. For both countries, business cooperation is of particular importance. Today I am very glad to see the delegations from various sectors that have come here from Lithuania.
Dear business communities of Lithuania and Azerbaijan, I wish you an interesting discussion. And I do hope that this discussion produces useful results for our countries – for Lithuania and Azerbaijan.
Thank you very much.
Then a ceremony to sign Azerbaijan-Lithuania documents was held.
Minister of Digital Development and Transport of the Republıc of Azerbaijan Rashad Nabiyev and Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Lithuania Julius Skackauskas signed the “Intergovernmental Agreement on International Road Transport”.
President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Azerbaijan Niyaz Alizade and Director General of the Association of Lithuanian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Crafts Giedre Razinskiene signed the “Agreement for Cooperation between the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Association of Lithuanian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Crafts”.
Chairman of the Management Board of the Small and Medium Business Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (KOBIA) Orkhan Mammadov and Director General of the Association of Lithuanian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Crafts Giedre Razinskiene signed the “Memorandum of Understanding between the Small and Medium Business Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Association of Lithuanian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Crafts”.
Head of the Export and Investment Promotion Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan-AZPROMO Yusif Abdullayev and Director General of the İnnovation Agency of the Republic of Lithuania Agne Vaitkuniene signed the “Memorandum of Understanding between the Export and Investment Promotion Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan-AZPROMO and İnnovatıon Agency of the Republic of Lithuania”.
Head of the Export and Investment Promotion Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan-AZPROMO Yusif Abdullayev and Vice-President of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists (LPK) Romas Austinskas signed the “Memorandum of Understanding between the Export and Investment Promotion Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan-AZPROMO and the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists”.
President of the National Confederation of of Entrepreneurs (Employers) Organizations of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mammad Musayev and Vice-President of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists (LPK) Romas Austinskas signed the “Memorandum of Understanding between the National Confederation of of Entrepreneurs (Employers) Organizations of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists”.
President Gitanas Nausėda: These agreements should be beneficial indeed, since we are witnessing this Mr. President.
President Ilham Aliyev: Good luck. Thank you.
Following the ceremony of signing the Azerbaijani-Lithuanian documents, the presidents viewed the exhibition of classic cars at the Heydar Aliyev Center.
The director of the Heydar Aliyev Center, Anar Alakbarov, spoke about the exhibition. The exhibition of classic automobiles features about 60 unique cars produced in various countries since the end of the 19th century. Those touring the exhibition also receive information about the history of the production of vehicles. Interesting information is also provided about different stages in the development of the automotive industry.
The exhibition of classic automobiles, opened at the Heydar Aliyev Center in 2015, also features videos prepared on the basis of archive materials related to cars, accessories and publications.
The business forum continued with discussions.