The key to progress and development in the Asia-Pacific region lies in ever-closer cooperation

Vladimir Putin says deeper regional integration, along the lines of the model adopted by Russia and its close neighbours, offers a way forward for growth and can help create a real family of nations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 November, 2015, 5:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 November, 2015, 1:40pm

The latest Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit will take place on November 18-19 in Manila. This year’s summit takes place under the motto chosen by the Philippines presidency – “Building inclusive economies, building a better world”.

For a long time, trade has been the driving force of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world. However, as the effect of tariff liberalisation started to wear off, it became clear that we need additional agreements covering services, investment, non-tariff barriers, competition policy and subsidies. Of course, we cannot reach such agreements without complicated negotiations and mutual concessions.

Deeper regional economic integration offers us a possible way out of the current situation. Today, Russia and its close neighbours – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – have taken successful steps to develop the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Realising the Apec countries’ development potential will take more than just reaching agreement on the rules of the game for today’s trade flows

Our integration project is based on the World Trade Organisation’s universal, transparent principles and is designed from the outset to work together with other countries and their organisations. In May this year, we signed a free trade agreement between the EAEU and Vietnam. Another 40 countries are examining the possibility of signing similar agreements.

One example of responsible and transparent partnership is the agreement to converge our EAEU project with China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. This will allow us to resolve a number of bottlenecks in transport infrastructure and procedures for cross-border movement of goods and services. It will also give a big boost to effective integration of the Asia-Pacific economies.

We hope to reach mutually advantageous agreements on traditional and renewable energy sources, emergency and disaster response, food security and agriculture at the Russia-Asean summit next year in Sochi.

Overall, the creation of new free trade zones will help to create good conditions for liberalising trade and investment flows in the region. At the same time, however, the confidential fashion in which the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations were conducted is probably not the best way to facilitate sustainable growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

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We believe that the strategic road ahead lies not only in increasing the number of free trade zones, but also in joint development and implementation of the best liberalisation practices among all Apec members, taking into account each other’s positions and interests. In this respect, we should continue our course of bolstering Apec’s role as a coordinator of various integration initiatives aimed at developing in the region a common and open market, free of discrimination and bloc-based barriers. Here, effective implementation of the Beijing road map for Apec’s contribution to establishing an Asia-Pacific free trade zone, approved in Beijing in 2014, is particularly important.

Realising the Apec countries’ development potential will take more than just reaching agreement on the rules of the game for today’s trade flows. We need to work out common approaches to development and regulation of the emerging markets that make up the digital technology-based “new economy”. We need to put in place the institutions and rules that will contribute to development and create new opportunities for our countries’ businesspeople to create modern, promising products and high-quality jobs.

Russia, for its part, is active in the work of the region’s new financial institutions – the [New Development] Bank BRICS and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. I am sure that their work will help to develop the region and will also help to make the global financial system stronger and more stable.

At the national level, Russia continues its efforts to create the most comfortable business climate. Our efforts have received international appraisal and, over the last four years, Russia has moved up 69 points in the World Bank’s Doing Business rating, from 120th place to 51st place.

We place great importance on developing the potential of Russia’s Far East. This year, we began developing the priority development areas – economic zones offering what, for Russia, are unprecedented tax and other incentives. A special law was passed on a free port in Vladivostok. We plan to extend this status to other key ports in the Far East. The Far East ports, the Northern Sea Route and modernisation of our mainline railways will all contribute to greater integration with the Asia-Pacific region and create an important infrastructure link between the Asia-Pacific region and Europe.

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Apec countries are showing real interest too in Russia’s proposals to form a common education space in the region. Today, when the Asia-Pacific region has established itself ever more solidly as part of the world’s leading technology centres, it is more relevant than ever to combine our efforts to create big research platforms and centres. Recognising Russia’s sense of initiative in this area, our partners have entrusted our country, together with Peru, the right to preside over the Apec Education Ministerial Meeting, which will take place in Lima in 2016.

Rapid economic growth is not possible without guaranteed energy security in the Apec region and fair and long-term climate regulation. Russia supports Apec’s efforts to establish good conditions for investing in the regional energy transport system, develop integrated energy markets, increase the share of eco-friendly and renewable energy sources, and ensure access to low-carbon technologies.

The Paris Climate Change Conference will take place soon, in December. This conference will try to reach a global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Russia wants to see this work succeed and we have already presented our report on our country’s contribution to these efforts.

The scale and diversity of Apec’s tasks is very impressive. I believe that we will be successful in resolving these tasks if we keep to the fundamental principles of working together as partners and acting in the interests of our peoples and our efforts to create a united Asia-Pacific family.

Vladimir Putin is the president of Russia