The Ford Motor Company and Belarusian prime minister Mikhail Chyhir announced yesterday the signing of an agreement to establish a joint manufacturing venture, Ford Union, in which the U.S. company will hold a majority of the stock. To be located in Obchuk, near Minsk, the plant will assemble Ford Escort passenger cars and Ford Transit vans, with 80 percent of the output earmarked for export to ex-Soviet countries. The plant’s annual output is planned to grow from 6,000 cars in 1998, the first full year of operation, to 20,000 in subsequent years, at a projected unit cost of $10,000 to $13,000 for the Escort and $14,000 to $18,000 for the Transit. The joint venture will be exempt from customs, value-added, and excise duties, and will not pay taxes on profits during the first five years of operation. The joint venture represents the first major Western investment in Belarus. (Western agencies, Interfax, May 23)
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