Asia-Pacific peace and prosperity, based on equality, in Russia's interests

Sergey Lavrov says by strengthening its presence in the Asia-Pacific, Russia hopes to foster regional stability and economic prosperity based on equitable co-operation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 2:50am

Recent years have witnessed deep geopolitical shifts that have fundamentally changed the global landscape. Against this backdrop, the role of the Asia-Pacific region is rising, becoming a significant factor that is determining mainstream international developments, and becoming an influential player in the emerging polycentric world order.

In today's global economic and financial turmoil, in spite of a slight slowdown in their high growth rates, Asia-Pacific states will remain the locomotive of global progress.

As an integral and organic part of the region, Russia is also strengthening its presence here. For us, this is a matter of principle. Our greater involvement in regional community affairs is a precondition for securing continued national development as well as the social and economic rise of Siberia and the far east.

It’s counterproductive to develop free trade zones because they ignore the interests of other countries

This is our clear commitment to ensure the strength, stability, security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. Intensification of the "Eastern" track policy, development of regional bilateral ties and participation in intergovernmental structures are among Russia's foreign policy priorities. This was noted in the new edition of our Foreign Policy Concept signed by President Vladimir Putin in February.

Russia's policy in the Asia-Pacific is aimed at a truly stable balance of power and elaboration of a cohesive regional agenda. Implementation of these goals is based on the foundation of our bilateral relations with countries in the region, many of which enjoy time-tested friendship and multifaceted co-operation. Our contacts with China, India and Vietnam have been upgraded to strategic partnerships. Ties with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the US, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Canada are also developing.

The increasing engagement of Russia with inter-governmental organisations and dialogue mechanisms - the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, BRICS forum, Asean Regional Forum, Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, Asia Co-operation Dialogue, Russia-India-China format, East Asia Summit and Asia-Europe dialogue - is of key importance.

The logic of Russia's foreign policy in the region comes from the recognition that it is crucial to create an environment of international relations in the region in line with modern realities.

The Asia-Pacific needs a system to ensure equitable co-operation, a genuine balance of power, and harmony of interests. Every country needs to participate in drafting a new agenda for regional relations and in resolving urgent development problems. We advocate a non-discriminatory regional order with no imposition of unilateral approaches, or division into leaders and supporters, but with interstate communication based on trust and respect.

Asia-Pacific countries have made outstanding progress in this direction. At their last meeting, the foreign ministers of East Asia Summit member states decided to launch multilateral consultations on regional security.

Russia believes that such architecture should be based on the indivisibility of security, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-use of force or threat of force, rejection of confrontation and co-operation directed against third countries, and partnership between multilateral organisations. To achieve these goals, we aim to strengthen economic integration, with the primary focus on the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.

In 2012, Russia presided over the forum for the first time and, according to partners' assessments, we coped quite well with this mission. Our proposed priorities "hit the bull's eye", as one could say. Along with the traditional tasks of advancing trade, investment liberalisation and regional economic integration, we highlighted the issues of ensuring food security, improving production and supply chains, and encouraging innovative growth. We also promoted co-operation in energy, health care, the fight against terrorism and corruption as well as emergency preparedness. Relevant Russian proposals are being implemented.

On the eve of the Apec summit scheduled to start on Monday in Bali, I believe it is necessary to point out that Indonesia - the present Apec chair - has ensured a proper succession of the forum agenda.

Support of the multilateral trading system and attaining the Bogor Goals for free and open trade remain the key tasks. Development of a network of free trade agreements forms the basis to implement them.

Russia closely tracks the dynamics of co-operation in this area, which takes place within the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Trans-Pacific Partnership and other formats. It is important that these agreements comply with World Trade Organisation principles and be as open as possible for all. It is counter-productive to develop free trade zones because they ignore the interests of other countries, especially neighbours.

This is the approach Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, as members of a customs union, are committed to. We have made significant progress in establishing a powerful regional development centre, aiming to create the Eurasian Economic Union by January 1, 2015 and thereby forging a link between Europe and the Asia-Pacific. We believe that interaction between the Customs Union and Apec could serve our common interests.

Russia is also ready to contribute to the discussion on sustainable and equitable growth as proposed by the Indonesian chairmanship.

An integral part of a new model of sustainable development and equitable growth is fair access for all participants in economic development, all Apec economies, to physical and technological resources. Russia is ready for further co-operation in providing food security and promoting scientific, technological and innovation exchanges.

Energy security issues deserve special attention. In the Apec framework, constructive discussion pertaining to their "green" components continues. It is no doubt important. At the same time, it is timely to bring up such issues as improving energy regulatory measures, ensuring the transparency and predictability of energy and raw-materials markets. It is necessary to diversify the energy balance of regional economies, including by increasing the share of ecologically clean natural gas and atomic energy.

We are committed to further co-operation to ensure secure development in the region, firstly in the framework of Apec's consolidated counterterrorism and secure trade strategy. It s important to promote interaction to prevent corruption, illegal trade and other types of organised crime.

We will participate in implementing measures to facilitate the movement of emergency agencies' personnel and equipment across borders, and we expect to intensify contacts between national crisis management centres.

We fully support the commitment to adopt practical measures to ensure economic transparency and improve taxation systems.

To ensure innovative development, we are committed to helping co-ordinate measures to facilitate cross-border movements of students, researchers and education service providers. We are also interested in discussing opportunities for regional tourist exchanges. This year, Russia became a full member of the Apec Business Travel Card system set up to facilitate visa procedures.

In short, Russia proposes a transparent policy and economic agenda for the region. Our goal is equal co-operation among all countries, with no exceptions, to strengthen peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific.

Sergey Lavrov is foreign minister of Russia