Towards Peace, Stability And Sustainable Economic Development in the Asia Pacific Region
Article by Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Russia
Recent years have witnessed deep geopolitical shifts that fundamentally changed the global landscape. Against the backdrop of global transformation processes, the role of Asia Pacific region is rising as a significant factor that is determining now and will most likely determine the mainstream of international developments in the nearest future, becoming an influential player of emerging polycentric world order architecture.
In the present turbulence of world economy and finance, Asia Pacific states despite the fact that their high growth rates are slightly slowing down will continue to demonstrate the energy of growth and remain the locomotive of global progress. Today the Asia Pacific is a vital center of economic development and progressive political influence as well as an attractive area for cooperation, a cross point for interests of key stakeholders and major multilateral institutions.
Certainly, Russia being an integral and organic part of the region is also strengthening its presence here. For us this is a matter of principle. Our greater involvement in regional community affairs is a major precondition for securing continued national development as well as social and economic rise of Siberia and the Far East.
It is our clear commitment to ensure strength, stability, security and prosperity of the Asia Pacific. Intensification of the “Eastern” track policy, development of regional bilateral ties, participation in inter-governmental structures are among Russia’s foreign policy priorities. This has been noted in the new edition of the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation signed by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on February 12, 2013.
Russia’s policy in the Asia Pacific is deliberate and focused, aimed at truly stable balance of power and elaboration of cohesive regional agenda. Implementation of these goals is based on the solid foundation of our bilateral relations with regional countries, many of which are filled with time-tested friendship and multifaceted cooperation. Our contacts with China, India and Vietnam have been upgraded to strategic partnership. Ties with ASEAN states, the US, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Canada are also developing on a strong and mutually beneficial basis.
The increasing engagement of Russia with inter-governmental organizations and dialogue mechanisms – Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS forum, ASEAN Regional Forum, Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, Asia Cooperation Dialogue, Russia-India-China format, East Asia Summit and Asia-Europe dialogue – is of key importance for us. The prospect of developing productive interaction between these structures is an integral part of the long-term task to shape a strong regional and international network of relations.
The logic of Russia’s foreign policy in the Asia Pacific proceeds from the recognition of the fact that creation of an advanced environment of international relations in the region in line with modern realities is of crucial importance. Such a configuration must simultaneously provide broad opportunities for the promotion of multilateral trade, economic and investment cooperation, eliminate existing multi-dimensional security challenges, prevent the emergence of new threats and serve to form an integrated economic and political space.
Asia Pacific needs a system to ensure equitable cooperation, genuine balance of power and harmony of interests. It is necessary that every country along with other partners could participate in drafting a new agenda for regional relations and in resolving urgent development problems. We advocate a non-discriminatory regional order without any imposition of unilateral approaches, any division into leaders and supporters but with inter-state communication based on trust and mutual respect.
Asia Pacific countries have made outstanding pace in this direction. The Foreign Ministers of East Asia Summit member-states at their last meeting decided to launch multilateral consultations on regional security. In fact, consensus was reached on the necessity to develop the most reasonable approaches to strengthen security and develop interaction, to seek arrangements on mutually acceptable rules of the game.
Russia believes that such architecture should be based on the indivisibility of security, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-use of force or threat of force, rejection of confrontation and cooperation directed against third countries and partnership between multilateral organizations.
In order to achieve these goals we aim to promote and strengthen economic integration with primary accent on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
In 2012 Russia presided over the APEC forum for the first time and, according to partners’ assessments, we coped quite well with this mission. The most important is that our proposed priorities, as one could say, “hit the bull’s eye”. Let me recall that along with traditional tasks of advancing trade, investment liberalization and regional economic integration we highlighted issues of ensuring food security, improving production and supply chains and encouraging innovative growth in the region. We also promoted cooperation in energy, health care, fight against terrorism and corruption as well as emergency preparedness, which is also important for the region. Relevant Russian proposals are under implementation.
On the eve of the forthcoming APEC summit scheduled for October 7-8, 2013 in Bali, I believe it is necessary to point out that Indonesia – the present APEC chair – has ensured a proper succession of the forum agenda.
Support of the multilateral trading system and attaining the Bogor Goals remain the key tasks. Development of a network of free trade agreements forms the essential basis to implement them. Russia closely tracks the dynamics of cooperation in this area which takes place within the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Trans-Pacific Partnership and other formats. We consider it important that these agreements should cope with the WTO principles and be as open as possible for all. It is counterproductive to develop free trade zones for they ignore the interests of other countries, especially regional neighbors.
This is the approach Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan as member states of the Customs Union are committed to. By now, we have made significant progress in establishing a powerful regional development centre – the Single Economic Space – aiming at creating the Eurasian Economic Union by January 1, 2015 and thereby forging a link between Europe and the Asia Pacific. We believe that interaction between the Customs Union and APEC could serve our common interests.
Russia is ready to contribute to the discussion on sustainable growth with equity proposed by the Indonesian chairmanship. We consider the course for improving financial, regulatory and other conditions for business development, especially small and medium enterprises, creating new high quality jobs, advancing infrastructure development and investments as a priority.
An integral part of a new model of sustainable development and equitable growth is fair access for all participants of economic development, all APEC economies to physical and technological resources. Russia is ready for further cooperation in providing food security and promoting mutually-beneficial scientific, technological and innovation exchanges. We intend to continue our live involvement in this activity.
Issues of energy security in the Asia Pacific deserve special attention. In the framework of APEC constructive discussion pertaining to their “green” and environmental components continues. It is no doubt important. At the same time we see it is timely to bring up such issues as improving regulatory measures in energy, ensuring transparency and predictability of energy and raw-materials markets. It is necessary to diversify energy balances of regional economies, including through the increase of the share of ecologically clean natural gas and atomic energy.
We are continuously committed to further cooperation in other areas to ensure secure development in the region, first of all in the framework of the APEC consolidated counter-terrorism and secure trade strategy. It s important to promote interaction in preventing corruption, illegal trade and other types of organized crime. We will actively participate in implementing measures on emergency agencies’ personnel and equipment cross-border movement facilitation in order to eliminate consequences of natural disasters and human-made catastrophes. We expect to intensify contacts between national crisis management centers having in mind the prospect of their possible future integration into an efficient regional network.
Another priority proposed by Indonesia for APEC – strengthening regional connectivity to create a comprehensively integrated Asia-Pacific community – also provides broad cooperation opportunities. Russia considers these tasks timely and reasonable.
We fully support commitment to adopt practical measures to ensure transparency of economy and improve taxation systems. Russia is ready to make a substantive contribution to the framework of connectivity in the APEC region, also through implementing our initiatives in supply chain area.
In order to ensure innovative development we are committed to actively participate in coordinating measures to facilitate cross-border movements of students, researchers and education services providers. We are also interested in discussing opportunities for regional tourist exchanges.
This year Russia became a full member of the successfully functioning APEC Business Travel Card system specifically set up to facilitate visas procedures. We believe that this would intensify contacts between entrepreneurs and officials responsible for economy-related matters and thus expand trade and Russia’s economic cooperation with other APEC member-economies.
In short, Russia proposes a transparent policy and economic agenda for the region. Our goal is equal cooperation of all countries with no exception in order to strengthen peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific.