President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the Republic of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis attended the opening of the event.
The heads of state made speeches at the business forum.
Speech of President Ilham Aliyev
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to once again express my gratitude to Mr. President of Latvia for invitation to visit your beautiful country. My visit is a very important step in the development of our bilateral relations. Starting from today Latvia and Azerbaijan are considered to be strategic partners. Today we signed a Joint Declaration on strategic partnership between our countries. This is a very high level of cooperation, and the Declaration covers many areas, including economic and trade cooperation.
Part of our discussions with the President, Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Parliament was devoted to our trade and economic cooperation. There is a big potential. Mr. President already mentioned the areas of great importance where we can easily increase our trade turnover. I think that for the coming years the increase of the trade turnover will be one of the priorities.
I know that during the business forum several business contracts will be signed. These contracts will actually reflect what we discussed with Mr President this morning. Taking into account that our climatic conditions are different, our economies are not competing economies. They are actually economies, which can provide each other with different kinds of goods. We have good opportunities to increase our export to Latvia and to increase import from Latvia. We import mainly what you produce and export, and you import what we produce and export. It’s a matter of business groups coordinated by the intergovernmental commission to work on concrete projects in order to increase the trade turnover.
Another important area of our economic cooperation could be mutual investments. Here we come to a very important point. There is a need to have more information because in order to have a good investment portfolio we have all the basic prerequisites, which are strong political ties. Business is very sensitive. Businessmen usually invest in a friendly environment. Therefore, strong political and friendly ties between our countries make this very attractive for investments. Now we need to identify the areas of potential investments and to coordinate the plans of business groups with the local demands. I think it will be easy to be done, taking into account this big audience. I am sure that today many new business contacts will be established.
Of course, I would like once again to invite Latvian companies to come to work in Azerbaijan as contractors. There have been several Latvian companies who implemented different projects in Azerbaijan. These were very successful projects implemented on a high level. Therefore, your companies have good expertise, reputation and professional level. We in Azerbaijan implement many important infrastructure projects, which can be interesting for your companies. In general, investment climate in Azerbaijan is very positive. During the last twenty years more than 200 billion dollars have been invested in Azerbaijan. Our economy is competitive. According to Davos World Economic Forum, Azerbaijan’s economy is number 37 with respect to competitiveness index. The country is politically, economically stable. A lot of infrastructure projects are being implemented and many companies from Europe and other parts of the world are our partners in implementation of these projects. Azerbaijan’s economic agenda is now aimed at diversification of economy in order to reduce the dependence on energy factor. And it is already happening. Now, the biggest part of GDP is created in non-energy sector. We managed to increase this year our non-energy export more than 27 percent, and reduce import 50 percent.
We have substantial financial resources, which makes economy very stable and predictable, and financial resources are bigger than the foreign debt five times. Therefore, our country is friendly to Latvia, to Europe with a lot of business connections with European countries. Today this declaration on strategic partnership is actually the 11th of this kind. With 11 member countries of EU Azerbaijan has a format of cooperation of strategic partnership. We today largely discussed opportunities, which will be created by implementation of the mega project, which is North-South transportation network. It will not only generate jobs during the implementation of the construction, but also will largely increase the volume of cargos going from South to North and North to South and crossing our territories. We will earn a lot of benefits from becoming more important countries for transit. Of course, it creates big opportunities for business companies. Another important project, which Azerbaijan implements now and which is directly aimed at the European interests and also, of course, our interests, is a project of energy diversification, Southern Gas Corridor. This is now probably the biggest infrastructure project, which is being implemented in Europe. The total cost of the project is 40 billion dollars, which will bring Azerbaijani gas to the market of European Union with the new route, with the new source. This is real diversification because diversification of energy is not only routes, it’s mainly sources. This is a case in our project. Energy security, as we all know, is vital for every country. Therefore, a lot of projects, which we implement in Azerbaijan, go beyond the boundaries of our country.
With Latvia we have such a strong format of cooperation that it will be natural to engage in a broader partnership. We also discussed today a very important issue for business, for tourists, for people-to-people contacts. It is a year-round direct flight connection between Riga and Baku. Now we have seasonal flight, and we want to have it permanent. That, of course, will create additional opportunities. If representatives of business communities fly often to visit each other that will make this route also commercially very attractive. So, it will not only open by the decision of the leadership, but it will be also commercially justified.
The last point, which I would also like to draw your attention to, is tourism. Our climate and the climatic and weather conditions also are different, which, I think, is an advantage because our people probably would prefer to cool a little bit themselves in hot summer and Latvians would probably prefer to have more sun in winter and other seasons. Therefore, for tourism it’s a huge opportunity to invest and for tourist companies to consider our destinations as very attractive. But for that, of course, we need to have more contacts, we need to know each other better, to have more presentations, more forums like that. That will strengthen our relations. All that we are doing is aimed at strengthening relations between Latvia and Azerbaijan. My today’s visit is an important contribution to that. Thank you very much.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the Republic of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis attended the event.
The heads of state made speeches at the forum.
The event then featured discussions.
Organized by the Ministry of Economy of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation and the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, the business forum brought together around 200 entrepreneurs representing more than 120 companies from both sides.
The sides put forward proposals on the development of cooperation between the two countries in a variety of fields of economy.