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ASEAN focused on the Far East
The agreement to build a strategic partnership was the main result of the talks held between Russia and the ASEAN countries at the summit in Sochi
As a result of the Russia-ASEAN Summit, successfully held in Sochi, its member countries adopted a declaration “Towards a mutually beneficial strategic partnership”, and also approved a plan of cooperation up to 2020. At the same time, no serious topics were raised in the public part of the meetings that took place during the summit. In general, the summit discussed substantively and from Russia gave clear answers to only a few proposals received from ASEAN countries.
Thus, at the summit, Malaysia voiced its desire to create, together with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a free trade area (FTA). To which Alexei Ulyukayev, the Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, declared Russia's interest in creating an FTA not with individual countries of the association, but with ASEAN as a whole. Such a zone, in his opinion, will be able to answer all the challenges that cannot be solved today for the World Trade Organization.
“I think that a variant of the FTA that would cover all the countries of the EAEU and all the countries of ASEAN is a possible format and, perhaps, even a desirable format,” announced Alexey Ulyukayev.
According to the adopted declaration, ASEAN will study Russia's proposal to create a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union.
“Consider in ASEAN the proposal put forward by Russia to conduct a joint study of the prospects for creating a comprehensive free trade zone between the EAEU and ASEAN,” the document says.
No less important at the summit was the Indonesian Prime Minister’s nomination, which combined participation in the ASEAN summit with a state visit, the requirement to increase the supply of palm oil. Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said that the Russian authorities are not going to impose restrictions on the export of palm oil from ASEAN countries. Since this is a matter of business, not big politics.
"It was a meaningful summit. The leaders of Russia and ASEAN recorded an understanding of common interests in East Asia and the world, agreed on the goals of their cooperation for the foreseeable future in the areas of politics and security, as well as trade, economic, humanitarian and socio-cultural, "said the director of the ASEAN Center at MGIMO-University Victor Sumy.
The expert drew attention to the fact that the series of working meetings held by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of the summit opened with a conversation with the President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which, in particular, raised the question of the participation of this bank in financing the expansion of the Trans-Siberian Railway Northern Sea Route.
"It was about projects that would significantly strengthen the ties between Eurasia and East Asia, thanks to building a bridge between them. ASEAN in these projects is intended for a considerable role, "- said Victor Sumsky.
During the summit, Viktor Sumsky noted, the issues of ASEAN joining projects for the development of Siberia and the Russian Far East were also raised, and the possibility of the participation of investors from a number of countries of the Association in the implementation of specific projects in this macro-region was considered.
Speaking about the idea of Russia to create a free trade zone between the EAEU and ASEAN, he noted that both sides are already starting to create it by signing relevant agreements between the Union and individual countries of the Association. The main example of this is the agreement on the EEU free trade zone - Vietnam. According to him, such initiatives will test the feasibility of a free trade regime between the EAEU and ASEAN as a whole.
“In 2014, Russia's trade with ASEAN countries exceeded 22 billion dollars, in 2015, it fell to 13 billion, largely due to the depreciation of the ruble, but now it is again showing an upward trend. Judging by the way the summit in Sochi was held, Russia and the ASEAN countries have grounds for optimism. But let us remember that the success of cooperation with ASEAN largely depends on the growth rate and diversification of the Russian economy. As for the desire of ASEAN countries to cooperate with Russia, there is no doubt about it - they clearly demonstrated it during the last summit, ”concluded Viktor Sumsky.
The declaration itself, adopted at the summit, contains the following points important for the further development of cooperation between Russia and the ASEAN countries. The countries that adopted the declaration, according to the document, intend to promote cooperation in the transport sector, including in civil aviation, as well as the creation of a network infrastructure for maritime, road and rail transport. The Declaration also provides for strengthening cooperation between Russia and the ASEAN countries in the fields of energy, agriculture, fisheries, science and innovation, investment cooperation and expanding financing for infrastructure projects. In addition, the document encourages “the expansion of cooperation in countering traditional and new challenges in the field of security, such as international terrorism and transnational crime. At the same time, the very progress of the implementation of the declaration will be reviewed on an annual basis through the existing mechanisms of cooperation between Russia and the ASEAN countries.
As for the Plan of Action approved at the summit, it determines the priorities and measures that Russia and ASEAN need to take to further deepen and expand cooperation in all areas, including politics, security, economics and socio-cultural sphere. Its implementation will also be reviewed regularly, and even more so - reports on its implementation will be analyzed at the annual ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conferences with Russia.
It should be noted that this Summit, held under the motto: “Towards a strategic partnership for the common good”, was timed to the 20 anniversary of the proclamation of Russia as an ASEAN dialogue partner (the dialogue partnership was formalized in 1996). At the same time, before him, Vladimir Putin had not met with the leaders of the states of Southeast Asia for more than 10 years. In other words, after several years the Kremlin persistently sought to participate in the East Asian Summit in order to be able to discuss security issues in the region, having received admission to it simultaneously with the US, he immediately lost interest in him. From 2011 to 2013, Russia was represented at this summit by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in 2014-2015 - by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. At the same time, several months before the summit, information appeared that members of the association were discouraged from traveling to our country - mainly the West and Washington. The main pressure was put on them during the US-ASEAN summit, which was urgently organized in California. Although the chairman of the Association, the Prime Minister of Laos Thonglun Sisulit denies this information.
"We were not pressured to participate in this summit. Interaction with Russia is very important for us. All ASEAN member states hold the same opinion - the Sochi summit was to be held, "he said.
The best opinion about the outcome of the Russia-Asean summit is Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Generally I really liked this meeting. It was very useful and very objective, "the Russian president said.
Completely positive information about the summit held in Sochi gives the Kremlin:
“With the entrepreneurs of each of the ASEAN countries, a number of specific events are scheduled for the near future both in Russia and in the partner countries. The business community is set to actively develop trade and economic ties between our countries, ”the department said.
At the same time, Dmitry Peskov describes more calmly the current situation in the interaction of Russia with the ASEAN countries:
"It's wrong to talk about a strategic turn to the East, from my point of view. Being a Eurasian power, Russia can not only turn in one direction. We have never been the initiators of the marginalization of relations with this or that country and regret that it happened. But today and tomorrow the main priority is ASEAN, "he said.
ASEAN - Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a political, economic and cultural regional intergovernmental organization of countries located in the region. Formed in 1967 year. It includes ten states: Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. Russia is a full-scale partner in the dialogue with ASEAN since July 1996. The Lao People's Democratic Republic not only presides over ASEAN, but also coordinates the Russia-ASEAN dialogue partnership in 2015-2018. ASEAN's supreme body is the summit of leaders (heads of state and government) of member states, held twice a year. Usually the Summit is held for three days and is accompanied by meetings with the organization's partners in the region.
Photo from kremlin.ru