Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Russia seeks to Create Comprehensive Economic Partnership across Eurasia
Source: Xinhua 2016-12-26 20:01:57
MOSCOW, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- In 2016, Russia has been actively promoting a Eurasian partnership, seeking to secure long-term and steady economic development across the region.
It aims to involve in the ambitious project countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and a number of countries of the Community of Independent States (CIS) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
BROADER COOPERATION ACROSS EURASIA
In December 2015 in his annual state of the union address to the Russian Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin announced the idea of a greater Eurasian partnership.
At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2016, he again expounded on the partnership, which he said would be based on the principles of transparency and respect for each other's interests.
Indeed, the idea of creating a trade zone across Eurasia has been mentioned earlier in the form of economic community "from Lisbon to Vladivostok." However, if in 2010 the emphasis was made on cooperation with the European Union, now it has been shifted to China and other Asia-Pacific countries.
Putin proposed to begin consultations on the formation of a possible economic partnership with members of the SCO and ASEAN.
For Russia, according to Putin, "the partnership will create new possibilities for building supplies to the Asia-Pacific region, including food and energy, as well as engineering, education, health and tourism services."
Russia and other EEU member countries -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan -- have come to realize that their union, although extremely important for each member, is too narrow for many continental-scale projects, Andrei Kortunov, general director of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, told Xinhua.
CHALLENGES FOR THE GREATER PARTNERSHIP
According to Putin, the possible participants in the great Eurasian partnership would cover the five members of the EEU, the SCO member states, as well as the CIS and ASEAN countries.
Such a large number of countries would be one of the main obstacles to the implementation of the project, said Vyacheslav Kholodkov, a researcher at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies.
Besides, Putin said that the partnership would initially focus on the protection of investments, optimization of procedures regulating the movement of goods across borders, joint development of technical standards for the next generation technologies and the reciprocal opening of services and capital markets.
To coordinate such a broad range of issues will require much time and effort, and it will be a very complex, laborious and long-term process full of uncertainties, experts noted.
FAVORABLE CONDITIONS FOR INTEGRATION
Analysts believed that Putin has launched the greater Eurasian partnership initiative, first and foremost, as a response to the efforts of the United States and other Western powers to create exclusive economic clubs, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The upcoming presidency of Donald Trump may result in a change of Washington's policy in the region, which will subsequently benefit the integration processes.
The possible changes in Washington's foreign policy mean that the interest of regional partners in a greater Eurasian partnership is about to increase, said Fyodor Lukyanov, chief editor of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine.
"The idea of the greater Eurasian partnership, looked rather abstract and a bit utopian some time ago. But now, after the U.S. 'zigzags,' things are changing in the region," he added.
ALIGNMENT OF EEU AND B&R
Putin expects that the pairing of the Russia-led EEU with China's Belt and Road Initiative will create a greater Eurasian partnership, which has the potential of becoming one of the centers of a broader Eurasian integration space.
In 2016, Russia and China have managed to make concrete progress aligning the two development strategies. Kortunov credited China as the "first violin in the symphony orchestra of the new Greater Eurasia."
During Putin's visit to China in June, Veronika Nikishina, who is in charge of trade affairs of the EEU, signed a joint statement with Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng on the start of negotiations for the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation between the EEU and China.
"Now it is not just a political statement. Practical work has started after the October 2015 meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, where presidents of the five countries agreed to start negotiations on a trade and economic cooperation agreement between the EEU and China," Kortunov said.
The pairing of the two projects and further implementation of the initiatives of the greater Eurasian partnership will lead to the creation of a zone of peace and cooperation across the Eurasian continent, said Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute of CIS, a Moscow-based think tank specializing in the research of foreign policies in the CIS countries.
"For Russia, it would be beneficial not only in the economic field but in terms of strengthening security," the expert concluded.