International Focus Magazine Vol. 3, #1 - Page 41

Q: To begin, tell us about how you began as a consul representing Belarus and some of your back ground. A: For ten years I was the career consul of the Netherlands, from 2003- 2013. We had a large staff working in Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. My own business took a backseat to that, and I resigned. I then was contacted by the Charge d’Affairs in Washington to see if I would be interested in work- ing in Texas. I understood Belarus was looking for a consul, and I contacted the embassy to see if I could have a meeting with the Charge d’Affairs in Washington. We set up a meeting for half an hour that ended up being 3.5 hrs. So, we had good chemistry. I was approved by the government of Be- larus though not by the State Depart- ment yet, and it was a long process. The State Department stepped in at the end to accredit the nomination. No one has taken such a long time, from what I was told, to be accredited by the State Dept. It normally takes 3 to 4 to 6 months to approve, though not in my case. I got a lot of help from the Houston OFM office during this. Q: Tell us about the Belarus Consulate in Houston, what parts of cans interested in doing business in Belarus, there is a focus on expos and conventions to establish more A: We are currently based in the trade relations since the trade sanc- Woodlands. We were based on Rich- tions were lifted. In fact, I received an mond Avenue in downtown Hous- email today concerning a trade show ton. This new government office was in December where Belarusians ex- well-received by the government of hibit their goods here in Houston the Woodlands. This is the first diplo- at the George R. Brown. Foreigners matic mission for the Woodlands. It’s travel to Belarus into Minsk by air- a beautiful office with arts and pic- plane with no VISA requirements for tures from the Belarus region. I rep- 5 days. Belarus would have to come resent Texas., Louisiana., Arkansas., to those companies and vice versa to and Oklahoma. We do mostly trade further those relationships and see here and supply Belarusians with ad- how everything is developing. Con- vice. We help with situations such as necting Arkansas to sell products in a lady in Austin recently who lost her a way for the people of Belarus to way and passport. Also, we assist in export their goods to large corpora- situations where it may be expired. tions was a recent example of this. A We used to do it at the Dutch con- large corporation in Arkansas is the sulate; though not anymore. Passports Walmart Corporation headquar- are sent by mail from the embassy in ters and they asked me for example; “When is Walmart coming to Be- Washington. larus?” Dignitaries were invited to Q: What are some past, present, & see the demonstrations hosted by the World Affairs Council in that future goals for Belarus’ relationship with the U.S., and please tell us your area, and we were given the keys to the city. The factories are very mod- perspective on ways that U.S. -Be- ern in Belarus like the vodka kind. larus goals may be furthered? I don’t drink vodka though it is of A: More people are speaking Eng- high quality. it is clean and one of lish each time I go over there. The the best in the world from what I’ve trade aspect is important. For Ameri- seen. They have very nice for trade: America are covered and what are the services it provides? iF Magazine | 41