3 days in the Caspian Sea: Tatarstan business looking for access to the coast

Tatarstan delegation has returned from Baku, where it held the 4th meeting of the joint Intergovernmental Commission on Bilateral Cooperation

3 days in the Caspian Sea: Tatarstan business looking for access to the coast
Photo: предоставлено пресс-службой АИР

Azerbaijan has always been interesting from the point of view of direct access to the markets of Turkey and Iran, and after the meeting of the heads of Russia and Azerbaijan in Moscow, a new stage is opening, because nothing hinders the development of the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC), experts forecast. Although Azerbaijan has not yet joined the Eurasian Economic Union, Tatarstan business is ready to “storm” access to the Caspian Sea. Petrochemists are going to transfer polymer production to the Sumgayit Industrial Park, the Ak Bars Shipbuilding Corporation is groping for common ground, and KAMAZ has opened a service centre in the liberated territories.

Korobchenko drove through the liberated territories

On the eve of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev at the highest level, the Tatarstan delegation managed to visit Baku on a large business mission. For three days, the team led by Deputy Prime Minister — Minister of Industry and Trade of the Republic of Tatarstan Oleg Korobchenko toured industrial zones with preferential taxation located in the liberated territories, and also visited the Alat FEZ, the Baku SME House, and the Baku EXPO Center. They held a series of cascading meetings with the leadership of key government agencies — with the Ministry of Energy of the country, the Export and Investment Promotion Agency Azpromo, the Agency for the Development of Special Economic Zones KOBIA and finalised preliminary agreements on the localisation of individual projects in industrial parks. The delegation was accompanied by Tatarstan's trade representative in Azerbaijan Murat Gadylshin.

“First of all, we pin our hopes on the chemical sector. I think that the first projects in this area will appear on the basis of the Sumgayit Park (Sumgayit Technological Park PLC — ed.)," said Airat Gizzatullin, CEO of Khimgrad Technopolis, who participated in the negotiations. “Chemistry is a consolidating industry, and the production and supply of equipment will be one of the drivers of the development of our joint projects.” In turn, the Azerbaijani partners confirmed their readiness to participate in the Russia — Islamic World: KazanForum International Economic Summit and the Russia Halal Expo, which are held this year in Kazan. The Russia'Azerbaijan round table discussion is held in May, the Investment Development Agency press service reported.

Where there is potential in trade turnover

The official reason for the trip was participation in the IV meeting of the joint Intergovernmental Commission on Bilateral Cooperation. Its co'chairman on the Azerbaijani side is Economy Minister Mikayil Jabbarov, and on the Tatarstan side ' Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Korobchenko. According to the press service of the Ministry of Economy of Azerbaijan, there is a great potential for increasing trade turnover between the republics. So far, the foreign trade turnover between Tatarstan and Azerbaijan remains low, although it is moving by leaps and bounds. By the results of 2022, it amounted to $125 million. “Tatarstan exports agricultural, pharmaceutical, paper products, wood and its derivatives to Azerbaijan. In turn, Azerbaijan brings fruits and vegetables, petroleum products, and minerals to Tatarstan. Azerbaijani investors have invested $66.5 thousand in the economy of Tatarstan. Certainly, this is not the limit, we have great potential for expanding trade, economic and investment cooperation," commented the head of agency, Taliya Minullina. Before the meeting, the delegation of Tatarstan laid a wreath at the tomb of Heydar Aliyev and flowers at the grave of Zarifa Aliyeva, the wife of Heydar Aliyev, who are buried in the Alley of Honour.

It is no secret that the trip to Baku initially had a peculiar political connotation. It coincided with the end of the Russian peacekeeping presence in Karabakh, which came under the control of Baku. Apparently, the end of the Karabakh issue opened up opportunities for direct interaction with the regions of Russia.

This topic was raised at a meeting of the bilateral group, where emphasis was placed on the restoration works carried out by the Azerbaijani authorities in Karabakh and East Zangezur liberated from occupation. “Karabakh and East Zangezur, Nakhchivan have been declared green energy zone, and special attention is paid to the use of alternative energy sources in these areas," the Azerbaijani side said in a statement. Interestingly, the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Tatarstan was consolidated almost 30 years ago, when the first president Mintimer Shaimiev and the father of the current president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, signed a historic agreement on trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation between the two republics. But Rustam Minnikhanov revived the agreements of the great “fathers” of the two republics against the background of a turn to the east just recently, a year ago.

First projects will be from Sumgait

Polymer processing, mechanical engineering, shipbuilding and energy were named priorities in the development of trade and economic relations between Tatarstan and Azerbaijan. According to Khimgrad CEO Ayrat Gizzatullin, polymer processing is traditionally well developed in the republic, some projects can be transferred to the Sumgayit Park site in order to have access to the markets of Turkey and Iran: “There is great potential here, because the production of thermoplastic elastomers is well developed in Azerbaijan. This will allow us to organise production with access not only to the domestic market. Of course, it is interesting to work with neighbours — with the large market of Turkey and Iran. The entire region (meaning the Middle East) could be served from Azerbaijan, given that unprecedented preferential conditions have been created in economic zones, industrial parks and industrial districts that are developing in Azerbaijan," said the head of Khimgrad technopolis.

Shipbuilders are particularly interested in accessing the Caspian Sea. Ak Bars Shipbuilding Corporation has serious groundwork and is ready to establish cooperation with partners in Azerbaijan. KAMAZ has recently opened a service centre in the liberated territories: “This is a big landmark project. Other machine-building enterprises have strong ties and hope for cooperation," said Airat Gizzatullin.

A separate area is energy, or rather, the construction of “smart grids”, which are engaged in Tatarstan enterprises. “They are actively working here, producing equipment for electric networks," Gizzatullin said. The infrastructure for electric vehicles is a promising niche. Energorazvitie Company, a resident of Khimgrad, is ready to build charging stations here. In addition, they have experience entering the Uzbekistan market.

To the delight of businesses, there are plenty of workers

Most of all, business is pleased with the absence of a shortage of qualified labour. “The personnel shortage, which is much talked about in the Russia, could have been avoided by placing production facilities in Azerbaijan," Airat Gizzatullin argues. “Because there is a good demographic situation, a high level of training of specialists, and they could work at the enterprises that we are establishing here.” Moreover, the Azerbaijani authorities do a lot for the education and training of personnel: “We were convinced of this when we visited educational institutions," Gizzatullin said.

The introduction to industrial parks and economic zones was organised by Azpromo Export and Investment Promotion Agency, which manages several facilities. According to Ayrat Gizzatullin, they visited sites in the liberated territories, where attractive tax preferences were created and low electricity tariffs are established. “The engineering infrastructure should be ready by the time the investor enters the site," he expressed his wish.

“For the first time in post-Soviet history, the meeting of the leaders of the two countries will not be overshadowed by the agenda dictated by the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. In other words, nothing hinders the development of cooperation between our countries anymore," says Andrey Areshev, an expert on the South Caucasus at the Strategic Culture Foundation (quoted by Svobodnaya Pressa). In his opinion, one of the main projects of economic cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan will be the development of the International North–South Transport Corridor, which passes through Azerbaijan. It will connect the Indian port of Mumbai and St. Petersburg with further access to Europe after the end of the sanctions era.”

Luiza Ignatyeva