Russia's Engagement into the Asia Pacific Affairs

Russia has been strongly adherent to intensifying its multidimensional engagement into the Asia Pacific affairs. This is fair and natural since Russia is an integral part of this vast geographic space. For that reason, Russia’s participation in the economic integration in the Asia Pacific is the right way to facilitate development of its Siberian and Far East provinces. Dynamic involvement in APEC, including the Forum’s summit in Vladivostok in 2012, facilitating cooperation with ASEAN are the indicators of Russia’s growing interest. Commemorative summit to mark the 20th Anniversary of the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership which took place in May 2016 in Sochi resulted in a historic decision to elevate cooperation between the great Eurasian power and the key engine of Asia Pacific integration to a strategic level.       

Globally, we witness an active search for optimal integration models. And we see both success and failure. For instance, Brexit has shown bottlenecks of the European integration. Doubts over the prospects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have clearly emerged, and this may result in a dramatic modification or even collapse of this integration project. Given this, we believe that success of integration is seen there and under those circumstances, where politics does not prevail over economy, and all the parties involved follow the agreed rules based on the universal principles.         

This is exactly the Russia’s approach to the integration projects within greater Eurasian space, including the Asia Pacific. Our core principles include equality of all parties, decision-making based on respect of everyone’s interests, non-acceptability of practices of imposing one’s will on the others, openness and transparency, compliance with the WTO rules. Russia never makes political and situational interests a cornerstone of its economic integration policy. Thus, we are not aiming at establishing closed, non-transparent, limited, in terms of participation, economic alliances where all parties must follow the standards of a “leading player”, as it has been happening in the TPP process, for example. The above mentioned approaches are cemented into the updated Concept of Russia’s Foreign Policy approved by President Vladimir Putin on 30 November 2016.

Guided by these principles, Russia has played a role in creation of the Eurasian Economic Union, which was proposed by Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, in 1994. Today the EAEU is a huge market with total GDP of 2.2 trillion USD, industrial output of 1.3 trillion USD and over 183 mln consumers. Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are the Union member states. The EAEU has made significant progress towards realization of free flow of goods, services, capital and labour, which provides the right platform for implementation of joint infrastructure and investment projects. We have built up a single custom space, introduced free labour migration, mutual recognition of diplomas, avoiding double taxation of individual taxpayers. This year we have formed a unified market of medicines and healthcare products. The EAEU is working on building a unified electricity market and a unified hydrocarbon market.         

At the same time, we attempt to take a broader view, we wish to look into the future and go beyond our present level of cooperation. In this context, we believe that the EAEU is capable of playing a significant role in harmonizing the integration processes over the entire Eurasian area including Europe and the Asia Pacific.         

As a first significant step, we envisage the promotion of a profound economic cooperation with ASEAN. We move in this direction along the two main tracks.         

Firstly, Russia has proposed the ASEAN member states to carry out a joint research of the prospects of establishing a comprehensive Free Trade Zone between EAEU and ASEAN. Currently, the initiative is being considered by the partners.         

Secondly, the EAEU is open for bilateral FTZs with any interested country. The process is underway with bringing into force the FTZ with Vietnam in October 2016. Having done this, Vietnam was the first in the region to receive privileged access to a highly promising market. Russia is ready to initiate this dialogue with Singapore. Indonesia and Cambodia show strong interest in such cooperation as well.         

We expect that at the initial stage, Russia-ASEAN advanced partnership may concentrate on protecting investments, regulation of cross-border movement of goods, harmonization of technical standards, mutual access to the services and investment markets, etc.         

For our ASEAN partners this kind of cooperation will definitely create new opportunities. Russia stands ready to become a reliable supplier of modern high-tech industrial goods and advanced technologies, globally acclaimed educational services. We can significantly contribute to energy security, including Russia’s global leadership in the nuclear energy technology, contribute to food security of ASEAN. It is worth taking into account the huge transit potential of the EAEU, including Russia’s broad and efficient Trans-Siberian railway and Northern Sea Route which have been developing and are economically more beneficial and safer compared to other commercial lines.         

Along with this, Russia pays great attention to the idea of building a multi-level integration model for Eurasia in the form of a Greater Eurasian Partnership. President Vladimir Putin proposed this concept at the Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2016. This project implies promotion of sustainable relations between the EAEU, ASEAN and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, possibly involving other interested Asian and European countries.         

It is worth noting that this goal was set by the leaders during the Russia-China summit in Beijing in July 2016. As a first step, it was decided to develop parameters and modalities of such partnership. This objective has been reached. Now the governments of the two countries have tasked to carry out the project’s feasibility study.         

Also in progress is linking the EAEU and Chinese Silk Road Economic Belt. In October 2015 the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council decided to commence negotiations to develop an agreement on trade and economic cooperation with China. As a result of the first round of consultations in October 2016 in Moscow, the parties started the process of consideration of the draft Agreement, which is expected to give new impetus to integration in Eurasia.         

Integration initiatives proposed by Russia and the EAEU do not attempt to compete with the already existent or projected ones. We are of the view that all integration projects do complement each other.         

To put it shortly, Russia’s objective is to form a common, open and non-discriminatory economic partnership in the Asia Pacific, which will undoubtedly serve the interests of all regional players. As stated in the Concept of Russia’s Foreign Policy, this is a matter of creating a common space of joint development.

Based on Talking points of the Russia’s Permanent Representative to ASEAN Mikhail Galuzin at the Valdai Discussion Club and the Centre for Asia and Globalization Conference “New Institutions of Growth in Asia and Europe: What is the Mission of Russia?”

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.