Azerbaijan-Lithuania business forum was held in Vilnius
22 May 2023, 15:20
An Azerbaijan-Lithuania business forum with the participation of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev and the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, has been held in Vilnius.
The heads of state delivered remarks at the business forum.
Remarks by President Gitanas Nausėda
- Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Dear ministers, members of the business community, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I'm pleased to welcome so many Azerbaijani business people in Vilnius, 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 are celebrating a 700th anniversary. The early days of our capital city were marked by the invitation letters of Lithuanian ruler Gediminas to 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 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 adapt quickly and to use new circumstances to its 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 would 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 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 the 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 economically and in the fields of science, education and culture. The road is broad, 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 the organizational activities of this business forum to Lithuania’s agency Litfood, Lithuania's Innovation Agency, the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, the 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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Remarks by President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear President Nausėda.
Dear ladies and gentlemen.
First, I would like again to express my gratitude to Mr. President for his hospitality.
I'm very glad to be back in this beautiful country and have an opportunity to broadly exchange views with Mr. President on our bilateral issues, regional issues, and economic agenda. And the fact that the heads of state address a business forum for the second time within one year demonstrates the great importance we attach to business-to-business contacts between our countries and our business circles.
With President Nausėda, I think we established an excellent foundation for cooperation and 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, it's time for business communities to engage in a long, mutually beneficial, fruitful cooperation journey.
Two weeks ago, here in Vilnius, Lithuania and Azerbaijan's intergovernmental commission met to address essential issues of our economic agenda. And I think that the role of the Joint Economic Commission is to coordinate the efforts of business circles to address the importance of potential cooperation and provide a framework for partnership.
In this respect, exchanging information about our plans is very important. I'm sure that during today’s business forum, there'll be many discussions about what kind of projects are planned to be implemented in our countries and how the 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 the potential is really here because we are moving in the same direction regarding investments in renewables. Both countries have enormous wind potential in the Baltic and Caspian Seas. And both countries have this on our agenda. In our case, though we are on the safe side concerning energy security, still, we want to save more natural gas for export and to use our nature - wind and sun - 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; by 2027, it will reach 20 bcm. I think this is the minimum because the potential is here. We are producing more natural gas from existing fields. Very soon, we will announce significant 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 today exports oil, natural gas, and electricity as a reliable European supplier. We plan to export hydrogen, including green hydrogen. All that is part of the overall strategic framework of our cooperation with the European Union, and we are grateful to our Lithuanian friends and partners for their constant support of Azerbaijan’s efforts and the European Commission’s efforts to become closer.
Another critical area the business community should take into account is the great potential in the area of logistics, connectivity and transportation. We look at the transportation sector not only as a source of revenues from transit but as an opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises to establish manufacturing, business, and services along the route.
Today, Lithuania and Azerbaijan are important transportation hubs in our region. So we need to create connectivity between the Caspian and Baltic Sea regions, which is possible. Because if we look at the energy map of Europe, it has changed dramatically, mainly due to the initiatives of Azerbaijan. Oil pipelines and gas pipelines create an entirely new situation. And the same is valid for transportation. We built new connections together with our neighbors and partners. We're investing largely in the seaport infrastructure of Baku. We are investing in building more vessels, which will be able to transport more cargo across the Caspian. Therefore, it's the right time for business communities to evaluate this opportunity and be on time because these enormous transportation opportunities will create added value, especially in the current geopolitical situation.
Also, I'd like to inform our Lithuanian friends that Azerbaijan’s economy is stable, investment-friendly and based on natural resources. Still, at the same time now, the main target is diversification. And I think that we will be able to diversify our economy broadly and reduce dependence on energy sectors. Though, the energy sector will continue to play an important role in our energy security and the energy security of Europe.
Our economic performance is reflected in certain statistics. To attract Lithuanian companies more to Azerbaijan, we have very low foreign debt, 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, a substantial surplus. And hard currency reserves, which we accumulated in our state oil fund and central bank reserves, are ten times more than our foreign debt. So, the stability of our economy is an important factor for regional economic cooperation and investment climate because a good investment climate is created not only by having good legislation. It is not enough. It is important to have good business opportunities, a very dynamic local market and accessibility to the neighboring market. Therefore, the Azerbaijani market is growing; the population is growing. Accessibility to big markets of Central Asia is provided. And also, establishing strong connectivity with the region where your country is situated will definitely create additional opportunities.
So I'm sure that this meeting will produce good results. As said today, several documents were signed, and hopefully, all of them will end with good results, demonstrating the efficiency of these kinds of gatherings. And also, using this opportunity, I would like to invite our friends from the 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 Azerbaijan is an essential partner of Lithuania in the South Caucasus region. The minister underlined that Lithuania is interested in further developing 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 expanding collaborative projects between the two countries, the Lithuanian minister said 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 significantly positively affected Azerbaijan’s economy.