Azerbaijan-Lithuania business forum was held in Vilnius
An Azerbaijan-Lithuania business forum with participation of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda has been held in Vilnius.
The heads of state made speeches at the business forum.
Address by President Gitanas Nausėda
- Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Dear ministers, members of business community, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I'm pleased to welcome so many Azerbaijani business people in Vilnius who are joined by their Lithuanian counterparts. I hope today's discussion will help our countries to deepen the existing ties and to develop new partnerships.
This year, Lithuania and Vilnius is celebrating 700-year anniversary. The early days of our capital city were marked by the invitation letters of Lithuanian ruler Gediminas to the foreign leaders, merchants and craftspeople of any social background and religion. Ever since Lithuania has been on an ambitious journey to interact with others, get new ideas and grow.
The great ancestors of the Azerbaijani people we are also part of this story receiving Lithuanian envoys in as early as the 15th century. Today, we can count on the healthy state of our bilateral ties. Azerbaijan is an important partner of Lithuania and we are interested in searching for mutually beneficial opportunities. We see Azerbaijan as a growing economic power with a huge energy potential and aspirations to diversify. Various sectors of Azerbaijan’s economy such as information technologies, logistics, manufacturing, advanced food industries and renewable energy attract Lithuanian entrepreneurs. This much we can bring to the table.
In the past, Lithuania has proven its ability to quickly adapt and to use new circumstances to advantage. We rely on a strong tradition of industry and an intelligent workforce. Our digital infrastructure is fast and affordable, one of the best in the whole European Union.
During the global contraction in 2020, Lithuania also managed to avoid the negative GDP change. This experience of successful anti-cyclical economic policy was an important lesson that we will use while dealing with new global turbulences. Right now, we are readily looking at the plans of the European Union to support the industrial production of green technologies. New opportunities will be provided by a breakthrough in zero pollution manufacturing. It will benefit Lithuania’s economy. The development of the net zero economies could also bring Lithuania’s and Azerbaijan’s economies closer. Our confidence today is boosted by the magnificent energy transition within the last decade. It allowed Lithuania to become the first European country to completely stop imports of Russian energy supplies including oil, electricity, and natural gas. Currently, there is an approach to the economic models based on low fixed price energy to be generated from renewable resources both onshore and offshore. That will strongly increase the competitiveness of our manufacturing and services sectors. Azerbaijan’s businesses are welcome to join in and reap the benefits.
I'm happy to know that initial economic reunion took place last year in Baku. There I had the honor to open a business forum with His Excellency, the President of Azerbaijan. Today, I strongly believe that our nations must be reconnected not only economically but also in the fields of science, education and culture. The road is wide and it lies in front of us. Let this business forum serve as another step in the right direction. I would like to express special gratitude for organizational activities of this business forum to Lithuania’s agency Litfood, Lithuania's Innovation Agency, Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, Export and Investment Promotion Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (AZPROMO) and all other institutions involved. I wish you all exciting and fruitful discussions. Thank you.
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Address by President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear President Nausėda.
Dear ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, I would like once again to express the gratitude to Mr. President for hospitality.
I'm very glad to be back to the beautiful country and have an opportunity to have a broad exchange of views with Mr. President on our bilateral issues, regional issues, as well as economic agenda. And the fact that the heads of state for the second time within one year address a business forum demonstrates big importance we attach to business-to-business contacts between our countries and our business circles.
With president Nausėda, I think, we laid down a very solid foundation for our cooperation and established a very active political dialogue. As I said, we met last May in Baku, then this January in Davos and now in Vilnius. So, it really demonstrates the dynamism of our cooperation. So, now it's time for business communities to engage in a long journey of mutually beneficial fruitful cooperation.
Two weeks ago here in Vilnius, intergovernmental commission of Lithuania and Azerbaijan met in order to address important issues of our economic agenda. And I think that the role of Joint Economic Commission is to coordinate the efforts of business circles in order to address the importance of potential cooperation and also to provide a framework for partnership.
In this respect, exchange of information about our plans is very important. I'm sure that during the today’s business forum, there'll be a lot of discussions about what kind of projects are planned to be implemented in our countries and how business community of both countries can participate. Today we broadly discussed with Mr. President the potential areas of cooperation, and President already mentioned them. I think that the potential is really here because we are moving in the same direction with respect to investments in renewables. Both countries have enormous wind potential in the Baltic and Caspian Sea. And both countries have this on our agenda. In our case, though we are on the safe side with respect to energy security, but still, we want to save more natural gas for export and to use our nature - wind and sun - in order to produce electricity, especially taking into account that last July the European Commission and Azerbaijan signed a Memorandum of Understanding on strategic partnership in the field of energy. Based on this memorandum, we are supposed to double our natural gas supply to Europe until 2027. In 2021, our natural gas supply to Europe was 8 bcm, this year it will be 12 bcm and by 2027 it will reach 20 bcm. I think this is minimum because the potential is here. We are producing more natural gas from existing fields. Very soon we will announce important production from one of the big fields of the Caspian. And also investments in renewables will allow us to save natural gas for export.
Therefore, Azerbaijan, as a reliable supplier to Europe, today exports oil, natural gas, electricity. We plan to export hydrogen, including green hydrogen. All that is part of overall strategic framework of our cooperation with European Union and we are grateful to our Lithuanian friends and partners for a constant support of Azerbaijan’s efforts and European Commission’s efforts to become closer.
Another important area and, I think, business community should take it into account is a great potential in the area of logistics, connectivity and transportation. We look at transportation sector not only as a source of revenues from transit but opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises to establish manufacturing, business, services on route.
Today, Lithuania and Azerbaijan are important transportation hubs in our region. So we need to create connectivity between the regions of Caspian and Baltic Sea and this is possible. Because if we look at the energy map of Europe it has been changed dramatically mainly due to the initiatives of Azerbaijan. Oil pipelines, gas pipeline create a completely new situation. The same with the transportation. We built new connections together with our neighbors and partners. We're investing largely into the sea port infrastructure of Baku. We are investing in building more vessels, which will be able to transport more cargos across the Caspian. Therefore, for business communities, I think, it's the right time to evaluate this opportunity and not to be late because, definitely, these enormous transportation opportunities, especially in the current geopolitical situation, will create added-value.
Also, I'd like to inform our Lithuanian friends that Azerbaijan’s economy is stable, investments are friendly and is based on natural resources, but at the same time now, the main target is diversification. And I think that we will be able to largely diversify our economy and to reduce dependence on energy sectors. Though, energy sector will continue to play an important role for our energy security and energy security of Europe.
Our economic performance is reflected in certain statistics. In order to attract the Lithuanian companies more to Azerbaijan I would like to say that we have very low foreign debt, it's below 10% of our GDP. We have a stable national currency and I'm sure, will continue to be stable because we have a surplus of our international trade turnover, substantial surplus. And hard currency reserves, which we accumulated in our state oil fund and central bank reserves is 10 times more than our foreign debt. So, stability of our economy is an important factor for regional economic cooperation and for investment climate because good investment climate is created not only by having good legislation. It is not enough. It is important to have good business opportunities, to have very dynamic local market and accessibility to the neighboring market. Therefore, Azerbaijani market is growing, population is growing. Accessibility to big markets of Central Asia is provided. And also establishing strong connectivity with region of where your country is situated, will definitely create additional opportunities.
So I'm sure that this meeting will produce good results. As it was said today, several documents were signed. Hopefully, all of them will end in good results, which will demonstrate the efficiency of these kinds of gatherings. And also using this opportunity I would like to invite our friends from Lithuanian business community to come to Azerbaijan and continue our dialogue.
Thank you very much.
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Addressing the business forum, Minister of Economy and Innovation of Lithuania Aušrinė Armonaitė said that Azerbaijan is an important partner of Lithuania in the South Caucasus region. The minister underlined that Lithuania is interested in the further development of relations between the two countries. Noting that the mutual trade turnover between the two countries is multifaceted, Aušrinė Armonaitė emphasized that Lithuania is interested in stimulating mutual foreign direct investments. Underlining that there are ample opportunities for the expansion of collaborative projects between the two countries, the Lithuanian minister said that they are interested in sharing the best experience, expert knowledge and success stories with Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s Minister of Economy Mikayil Jabbarov noted the existence of a mechanism for protecting investments and avoiding double taxation between the two countries, adding that this promotes the activity of investors. Speaking about the diversification of Azerbaijan's economy, Mikayil Jabbarov said that non-oil and gas exports of the country had doubled in the past four years. Touching upon the alternative energy sources, the minister emphasized that the transition to these energy sources had a significant positive effect on Azerbaijan’s economy.
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The business forum brought together about 80 companies from both countries operating in various sectors of economy.
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