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All for the port-franco

Regions of the Far East are preparing to become Free Ports

According to EastRussia, last year's initiative of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East to extend the Free Port regime to all the key harbors of the Far East may develop up to the Eastern Economic Forum.

All for the port-franco
Having enlisted the instruction of the President of the Russian Federation, the department last year developed a draft federal law "On the Free Port of the Far East", which provides for the introduction of a regime similar to the South of Primorye in the Khabarovsk Territory, Kamchatka, Chukotka and Sakhalin. At the same time, this initiative has a number of alternative ways of implementation. This can be either a separate law "On the Free Port of the Far East", or a comprehensive law on Free Ports in the Russian Federation (the initiative is being worked out by the Ministry of Transport of Russia), or an amendment to the current law "On the Free Port of Vladivostok", expanding the geography of its application. It is the last option - as the fastest - that can be applied so that new preferential regimes appear for the Eastern Economic Forum.

The fact that the number of Free ports in the Far East may soon expand is also evidenced by the activation of the governor's corps. The other day, the head of the Khabarovsk Territory Vyacheslav Shport made a corresponding statement: “For our harbors, the spread of this regime opens up new opportunities. This is a more active development of foreign economic activity, and new prospects for sea fishing and processing of biological resources. In some of our ports, such as Vanino and De-Kastri, many large companies are already operating. I am sure that additional preferences within the framework of the free port will also interest new investors, ”the head of the Khabarovsk Territory said confidently.

Experts interviewed by the EastRussia correspondent agreed that the very decision to expand the system of Free Ports harmoniously fits into the current state policy for the development of the Far East. At the same time, experts gave various assessments of the feasibility of such a measure and the expected effectiveness of it.

“The process of granting the Free Port regime to the port zone of the Khabarovsk Territory cannot be called anything other than a rush on the part of the state,” comments the associate professor of the Department of Economic and Social Geography of Russia, Faculty of Geography, Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov Vladimir Gorlov. - Since the introduction of this regime on the territory of the Primorsky Territory has not yet followed such a strong effect, which would make it possible to judge the effectiveness of this measure of state support. And if we talk in general about the spread of Free Ports in the Far East in the near future, then on the part of the state this is nothing more than an administrative rage. Empty scattering of this type of state support over the Far Eastern macro-region. "

According to the expert, before the decision to create the Free Port of Khabarovsk, it was necessary first to work out well the model of the Free Port in Vladivostok, after which - to make a forecast of all the benefits that it can bring to the region, to understand all its advantages and disadvantages. For the simple reason that in the ports of the Far East coast, the companies owning berths are very different from each other both in their work and in their interests. At the same time, using the example of Vladivostok, it is necessary to determine the entire volume of public and private costs that is necessary to create a network of Free Ports in the Far East.
“The creation of Free Ports in the Far East should be very consistent. Frequency - no more than one port per year. And within the framework of this process, gradually eliminate all those shortcomings of this model that it manifests in practice. At the same time, the very process of providing the regime to the Far Eastern ports, it is necessary to provide a whole range of appropriate measures - organizational, financial, managerial - with an ideally thought-out algorithm for their introduction, ”said Vladimir Gorlov.

At the same time, according to him, the Free Port regime is far from the only one, but only one of several state support measures suitable for the development of the Far East, in which there is no need to excessively multiply over its territory. And even more, its spread in the Far East will result in intense competition between the ports of this macroregion.

“The best option would not be to introduce the Free regime in every Far Eastern port, but to introduce it only in some part of them. In others, to create free economic zones, including not only the port itself, but also one or another part of the port territory. At the same time, it is necessary to carry out a full assessment of the needs of Russian business operating in the Far East in free ports - to determine the number of them required. It seems that it will be rather small, since for the most part the business that is engaged in production in the Far East cannot be called successful now, ”explained Vladimir Gorlov.

According to Evgeny Plisetskiy, Deputy Director of the Institute for Regional Studies and Urban Planning of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, “the provision of the Free Port regime by the state is a universal measure of state support, based on an integrated approach to the development of the territory. It is universal because, in contrast to giving the territory the status of a special economic zone, which has a number of varieties, the Free Port assumes the possibility of carrying out a large number of activities. We can say with a great deal of confidence that such a measure of state support is equally applicable not only to the Far Eastern ports, but also to all Russian ports. It seems quite real that, as a result of the provision of the Free Port regime to many port territories of the Far East, they will not fail to then actively demonstrate their development. "

At the same time, according to Yevgeny Plisetskiy, granting the Free Port regime to a number of Far Eastern port zones will not lead to competition between them in the future. And it will be a process that fully fits into the modern state policy for the development of the Far East. “But here it should be noted that the creation of Free Ports in the Far East will entail new investments only when all the necessary infrastructure and regulatory framework are created in the territories of their regime. And, that is, only if, in addition to the Free Ports regimes, almost completely finished production sites, as well as a convenient set of legislative acts, will be provided for new investments. But even under such conditions, new investments will come to the Far East in the short term, but only in the medium term, ”added Yevgeny Plisetskiy.

“The manifold increase in the number of Free ports in the Far East is one of the main components of modern state policy in this macroregion, which provides for a turn towards Asia. But it is unlikely that it will bear fruit, - said Vasily Koltashov, head of the Center for Economic Research at the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements. Including the creation of the Free Port of Khabarovsk. Since this initiative - the creation of a network of Free Ports - was once successfully implemented by China, but in the conditions of modern Russian realities it is ineffective. And also because there is an economic crisis in the world as a whole. In particular, international trade is in a very difficult situation - due to extremely small opportunities for consumers in many countries of the world. Therefore, it is unlikely that, as a result of the appearance in the ports of the Far East of all those preferences that the Free Port regime provides, investors are interested in the prospect of their use and begin to make new investments, as well as increase the supply of products to this macroregion. In particular, China, which is now very much counting on the state, creating Free ports in the Far East. "

In his opinion, Chinese investors, despite all the preferences provided by the Free Ports, are also not profitable today to invest in the Far East, because there is no point for them to engage in industries similar to those already existing in China in the Far Eastern regions. They are more than interested in continuing to import their own finished products to Russia.

“It is also important to take into account the fact that by now very large investments have been made in the world economy - one might say, even excessive ones. In particular, to the economies of the countries of North-East Asia. Therefore, now there is no reason for foreign countries to invest in Russia. The Russian Far East is no exception, ”said Vasily Koltashov.
According to him, what could really lead to an increase in the volume of trade and investment from both domestic and foreign investors today is either a situation in which they would be forced, in the absence of other opportunities, to purchase large quantities of Russian goods (for example, due to the introduction in the world of a ban on the import of products to countries that have in full all the production capacities for the production of any goods), or interest in the actively growing Russian market, the emergence of which is impossible in the near future. Moreover, even in such situations, the provision of all those preferences that the Free Port presupposes is not necessary, since they represent great benefits for the investor.

The experts interviewed agreed that the emergence of the Free Port of Vladivostok in the Primorsky Territory has not yet led to rapid economic growth: the operating seaside business is actively migrating to the Free Port today, and this is not quite the effect that was promised by the developers. At the same time, for the authorities of other Far Eastern regions, the introduction of the Free Port regime is an opportunity not only to be in trend, but also an attempt to compete with the more advanced Primorye for the interest of the federal authorities and investors. “There would be a tool - there will definitely be an application for it,” one of the interlocutors of EastRussia said optimistically. "The economic situation is such that the state can quite afford a certain risk in this territory."
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