In the aftermath of the United States pulling out of the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that Moscow supports the idea of setting up a free trade area in Asia and the Pacific.
“We support the idea of forming an Asia-Pacific free trade area. We believe this is in our practical interest and represents an opportunity to strengthen our positions in the rapidly growing APR markets. I want to note that over the past five years, the share of APEC economies in Russia’s foreign trade has increased from 23 to 31 percent, and from 17 to 24 percent in exports. And we have no intention of stopping there.”
President Putin said this sweeping project should be implemented with account of the experience of key integration formats in Asia-Pacific and in Eurasia, especially the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) where Russia cooperates with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
“Our union has been developing dynamically, and we are eager to build relations with all countries and associations that are interested in doing so,” he said.
President Putin recalled that Vietnam, the host country of the current Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, was the first country in the region to sign a free trade agreement with the EAEU. “As a result, our trade grew significantly and became more diversified. Talks on a trade and economic cooperation agreement with China concluded a short while ago. Talks with Singapore have begun, and we are working on the possibility” of signing a free trade agreement with ASEAN.”
President Putin stressed the broad opportunities that would open up for communications between the participating leaders and coordination of positions on diverse issues from economic to social to ecological to humanitarian.
“Our countries strive to cooperate based on the principles of consensus and voluntary participation, mutual respect and willingness to compromise, regardless of the political situation. This is what APEC’s unique spirit of partnership is all about. We believe that effective economic integration based on the principles of openness, mutual benefit, and the universal rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is the primary means of achieving this goal”, President Putin stated.
Chris Devonshire-Ellis of Dezan Shira & Associates comments: “The TPP deal, while certainly weakened by the U.S. pull out, has not been completely forgotten. President Xi Jinping of China has already expressed hope that a similar deal, without the United States, could be structured, as have the Presidents of Australia, Japan, and South Korea. China has been looking at options such as the previously touted “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Free Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), while Australia and Japan are trying to keep the TPP together without U.S. participation. Russia’s assertion that it now wants to be part of such a deal is important as it places the APEC region as increasingly China & Russia trade dominated.
President Trump will be attending the APEC meetings in Vietnam this weekend, and it will be interesting to note what transpires afterwards. If there are no concessions on free trade by the U.S., then it leaves the ball very much in the court of a China-Russian alliance to forge ahead an Asia-Pacific agreement without them. The signs from both Beijing and Moscow are that this is exactly what will happen.”
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