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Corridor Reality

The editorial staff of EastRussia tried to find the interests of the Far East in the "Program for Creating the Economic Corridor China-Mongolia-Russia". Did not find.

Last week, at the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO-2016) held in Tashkent, the "Program for the Creation of the Economic Corridor China-Mongolia-Russia" was approved. The document was signed by the Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Alexei Ulyukayev, the Chairman of the State Committee of the People's Republic of China for Development and Reform Xu Shaoshi and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia Lundeguin Purevsuren. According to official reports, the program identifies the main directions of tripartite cooperation in the field of transport infrastructure, customs and quarantine administration, industry, investment, environmental protection, and cross-border interregional cooperation. The document contains a list of the order of 30 projects in various fields.

Corridor Reality
Despite the instant news received in the media about the signing of the Program, it was not possible to receive any specific information on the projects contained in it on this day or even a day later. It was difficult to name concrete projects in the Ministry of Economic Development, while noting that the implementation of each project of the Program will have a positive effect on the development of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, and will give impetus to the development of trade and economic cooperation between Russia, China and Mongolia.

According to the commentary of the press service of the Ministry of Economic Development, “duties, areas of responsibility, as well as rights and powers are determined by the degree of interest of each of the parties. At the same time, it is planned to hold regular meetings to discuss the progress of projects. In turn, it is too early to speak about the total volume of investments of the Program. As for the terms of implementation of the projects of the Program, they differ significantly, but there is an understanding that all projects must be completed within five years. "

The only thing that was told in a little more detail is how much funding is provided for by the Program.

"The projects under the Program are expected to be financed through public, private sector investments, as well as from international financial institutions including the Asian Bank for Infrastructure Investments, the New BRICS Development Bank, the Interbank Association of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Silk Road Fund. At the same time, in particular, the program assumes the implementation of projects on the principle of public-private partnership, "the Ministry of Economic Development told.

Considering that, due to a number of factors, China and Mongolia are interested in participating in the implementation of projects in the Russian Far East, the editors made an assumption that among the 30 projects there are projects in the Far Eastern Federal District. But the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade also reported very little to an ER correspondent about them: “The list of projects in the Program contains, among other things, projects that will be implemented in the Far East. These projects affect, among other things, the transport infrastructure of the region, ”the ministry said.

Appeal to the Ministry of Transport of Russia, unfortunately, did not help to disclose a specific list of projects included in the Program. Given that it is unlikely that this list may contain anything deeply secret, there is a feeling that, simply, the document, despite the signatures placed under it, is quite raw. Although the search for concrete projects of trilateral cooperation between Russia, Mongolia and China - the topic is not new. At a minimum, the latest history of this issue has been dragging on for two years.

So, in September of 2014 in Dushanbe on the sidelines of the Summit of the heads of SCO member states the first meeting of the leaders of the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China and Mongolia was held, at which the parties stated the need to develop cooperation in this format and agreed to hold meetings on a regular basis. The second meeting of the leaders of Russia, China and Mongolia was held 9 July 2015 in Ufa "on the sidelines" of the summit of the heads of SCO member states. As a result, the heads of state approved the Roadmap for the development of cooperation between the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China and Mongolia for the medium term. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China and Mongolia on the development of the Russia-China-Mongolia Economic Corridor Development Program.

It creates the appearance that in terms of bureaucratic issue worked out - promised to create a Corridor Program - it was created and publicly signed. However, the essence, alas, remains the same - as they began with an agreement to hold meetings on a regular basis, and remained at this level: "it is planned to hold regular meetings to discuss the progress of projects."

“Like other documents of this kind, it seems that this Program is nothing more than intentions and declarations,” says Sergei Yanaev, deputy director of the RAS IFES, head of the Center for the Study and Forecasting of Russian-Chinese Relations. - At the same time, most likely, the document does not indicate precisely defined funding sources, but simply lists those financial organizations that can potentially be involved in various projects of the Program. Since it is unlikely that in the same structures of the new BRICS bank they have heard a lot about software projects. Moreover, BRICS is just beginning to develop the activities of its bank. If we talk directly about the projects of the Program, then one should not expect that all of them will not be implemented today or tomorrow. In general, it is still impossible to speak of any specificity within the framework of cooperation between Russia, Mongolia and China, based on the approved Program - today it is still at the stage of conceptual formation. But, as soon as the discussion has already reached specific projects, it is possible that by the next SCO summit some of them will already acquire some shape - probably, for example, that the direct participants in the construction of certain program facilities will already be identified, and there are also accurate sources of funding. "

At the same time, Sergei Yanaev noted that the initiator of the trilateral process of forming cooperation is the President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, who came up with a similar initiative to launch this process in 2014. At the same time, Mongolia also put forward the so-called idea of ​​the steppe path - just one that provides for the involvement of Russia and China in cooperation, which is now discussed in the Program. According to the expert, the essence of Mongolia's initiative in communicating with China and Russia is the prospective laying of trans-Mongolian communications - in particular, rail, road and pipeline. It is possible that these projects will be expanded to the territory of some regions of the Russian Far East - such a prospect is allegedly being considered today by all three parties. China, for its part, is trying to develop the Belt and Road Initiative, which is about total exports of investments, enterprises, goods, technologies, labor, etc. In turn, Russia is trying to develop a project to build a trans-Asian bridge. And Mongolia is showing a strong interest in this project, since it needs to be connected to it to revive its own infrastructure.

At the same time, Sergey Yanayev notes that the opportunity to participate in the cooperation of Mongolia and China now being formed for Russia is, first of all, an opportunity to return to the markets of Mongolia. In the broadest sense of the word - to return goods and investments - not only in production, but also in the construction of infrastructure on the territory of Mongolia in order to ensure transit through its border with Russia.

Another opinion suggests that the program is based, in spite of Mongolia's initial initiative, mainly on bilateral interaction - between Russia and China. That is, Mongolia is not a weighty participant of the Program and is included in the Program purely formally - to show what is considered with it.

"Mongolia today is almost an economic zero. Since no significant financial resources, no administrative resources, no labor for the implementation of investment projects, it can not provide - for the simple reason that it does not possess them, "explained the Head of the Department of Economic and Social Geography of Russia, Geography Department of the Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov Vyacheslav Baburin.

In his opinion, speaking of possible Far Eastern projects contained in the Program, it is most likely that the program contains all the major projects of the Far East that are of interest to China today. In other words, it is the land of forests and the depths of the Far East. As a maximum - projects for the production of semi-finished products. It is also possible that the program includes large transport and port projects of bordering Far Eastern regions - for example, such projects as bridges in the Jewish Autonomous and Amur regions. At the same time, according to him, and within the framework of the Program, China operates according to its usual principle - to be present on a certain territory not through large-scale projects, but its fragmentation - participation in a large number of projects providing for the implementation in small areas. In turn, the projects of the Far East, in the implementation of which Mongolia is primarily interested, are unlikely to be in the Program - due to the fact that today nothing is known about projects in the Far East, in one way or another connected with Mongolia.
"The program for creating the economic corridor China-Mongolia-Russia" will not have any strong significance for the development of the Far East. However, like all the "external" programs adopted by Russia today. In particular, because this program is simply a framework ", - concluded Vyacheslav Baburin.

Maybe it will not. However, EastRussia still hopes to find a list of specific projects envisaged by the document signed at a high governmental level.

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"The program for the creation of the economic corridor China-Mongolia-Russia" was prepared by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia jointly with interested Russian ministries, departments and organizations and agreed with the Chinese and Mongolian sides. 
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