Canada limited its official relations with Belarus following the flawed 2006 presidential elections, which included the harassment and intimidation of the opposition, and the subsequent suppression of protests by Belarusian authorities. Official representation to Belarus (based at the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw) was downgraded by suspending the accreditation process for three consecutive Ambassadors. In addition, Canada has restricted official contact with Belarusian authorities to the areas of consular relations, human rights and democratic development, and efforts related to international security.
Belarus’ presidential election held December 19, 2010, was marred by a lack of transparency in the vote counting process, a violent crackdown on protestors, and the detention of most opposition presidential candidates. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs issued twelve statements on the election and its aftermath expressing disappointment at the conduct of the Government of Belarus during the election, condemning the violence following the election, calling for the release of detainees including opposition presidential candidates, and expressing disappointment at Belarus’ decision to close the Minsk office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs also expressed disappointment with the flawed results of the most recent parliamentary elections in Belarus held September 23, 2012, and repeatedly urged the Belarusian authorities to uphold democratic principles, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
In 2006, Belarus was added to the Area Control List, which requires that all Canadian exports to Belarus be authorized by an export permit. Exports of non-humanitarian goods are generally denied. Canada withdrew the benefit of the General Preferential Tariff from Belarus in August 2007. Bilateral trade is low. In 2011, Canadian exports to Belarus totalled $2.16 million. As stipulated by Canada’s limited engagement policy, most exports to Belarus are humanitarian items. Canadian imports from Belarus were approximately $33.47 million, comprised largely of primary materials such as minerals and wood products.
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