Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Joint press conference of the co-chairmen of the Meeting of APEC Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade S.V.Lavrov and A.R. Belousov, Vladivostok, September, 6th, 2012
S.V. Lavrov: Dear ladies and gentlemen!
The Meeting of APEC Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which became the last stage of preparation for the meeting of the leaders of the APEC economies taking place on September, 8-9th, has just finished. We have discussed the principal global and regional economic problems, summarized the results of cooperation in various directions during the current year, and have outlined the main objectives and tasks for the future.
The approved approaches are reflected in the joint ministerial statement, which is available public access, and, I hope, you will familiarise yourself with it.
We have confirmed our commitment to the liberalisation agenda. The participants have expressed the general intention of achieving the improvement of conditions for trade and investment, and prevention of artificial protectionism.
All the representatives of APEC economies have supported the deepening of regional economic integration as a basic method of advancement towards the establishment of a system of free open trade. The importance of further joint efforts on the enhancement of transport and logistical systems and the elimination of "bottlenecks" in regional supply chains has been emphasized, the concrete steps have been planned and the concrete measures for the achievement of this objective have been coordinated.
During the meeting the necessity of more active actions for the provision of food safety was also recognised. We are grateful to our partners for the support of the proposals of Russia on this subject. We strive to improve the stability of the food markets, expand the access to the food supplies for vulnerable social groups, to increase the involvement of innovative technologies in the agricultural industry, to struggle against the illegal development and trade of marine resources.
We have assured ourselves in the rich potential of such field of regional integration as the assistance to innovative growth. Russia initiated the dialogue on this subject with the participation of the representatives of the governments, business, science, and within the frames of the session of the finished Business Advisory Council, which was headed by the Russian representatives in this year. It has been decided to establish the public private partnership on the elaboration of policies in the field of science, technologies and innovations.
We have also noticed that the process of implementation of Russian ideas on forming the Common Educational Space in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation region is developing rapidly. It is a question of establishing the all-round cooperation between the departments, research centres, educational institutions and businesses, and also about securing the various sectoral dialogue formats on the given problematics in the practice of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
We highly appreciate the results of joint work within the frames of the forum in 2012. By the general assessment, we have managed to maintain the continuity in the activity of APEC and, at the same time, to give it additional dynamics.
I am sure that all those who are present here have familiarised themselves with the article of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin ("Vladivostok-2012: the Russian agenda for the APEC forum", which was published in the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal), which is devoted to the APEC economy summit that is opening tomorrow. It convincingly emphasizes that Russia will continue participating vigorously in the integration processes, and will engage the mechanisms, which are being formed in this region. It is our principal choice, and we will implement it, basing on the approved approaches and, of course, on the interests coordinated with our partners from the Customs union. I am sure that the coordination of integration efforts on the Euroasian and Asian-Pacific spaces will bring benefits to all these regions.
I thank you for the attention and I give the floor to Andrey Removich Belousov.
A.R. Belousov: Thanks, but I would like to notice that the event taking place in these days is the culmination of the year of presidency of the Russian Federation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Now we can preliminarily identify the results attained by the common efforts of the 21 APEC participant economies, which fact I would like to emphasize.
Doubtlessly, the formation of the so-called list of environmental goods is a breakthrough result. Those are the goods essentially related to environmental protection, evaluation of natural risks, water and air quality control and are, basically, being segregated into a virtually duty-free trade zone. This means that, in case the list is approved by the leaders, the APEC economies and APEC heads assume the obligations to reduce customs duties on such goods down to 5% by 2015. In some economies these duties now reach 30 percent and more, which means that a practically new market of commodities determining the environment quality is being opened up.
Why do I call it a breakthrough result? Because the task of the formation of such a list was set within the framework of the World Trade Organisation as long ago as 2001. During the 10 years, the WTO member countries failed to agree on this list. That means that there was practically no progress. Meanwhile, within the year of Russia's presidency, the APEC participant economies have succeeded in forming such a list. Currently it includes 54 items.
I would like to note that the intensity of emotions was colossal. Yesterday the list that we managed to agree consisted only of 20 items. In the course of yesterday's consultations it was extended up to 25 items. It has been recognised that having such a list submitted for consideration by the leaders would have been definitely impossible and even shameful, because 25 items is too few. Within literally 24 hours, based on the previous groundwork and some already available solutions brought to today's meeting by different economies, the meeting succeeded in conditioning the list to include rather a significant range of commodities (54 items).
Currently, the list has been approved of by all the economies, and I would like to emphasize the fact that the decision was taken on a consensus basis. That means that if a single economy had objected, the list would not have been adopted. In my opinion, it is doubtlessly an outstanding result, all the more so, that we are witnessing the increase in protectionism in global trade, which was one of the subjects of today's discussion, and that we see the rather difficult problems that the WTO is experiencing now within the framework of the Doha round.
This is definitely not the only important result attained. There are other results also. A model chapter on transparency in free trade zone agreements has been adopted at the initiative of Russia. I cannot but state that the APEC has turned into a kind of testing ground where both the bilateral and multilateral models of new relations between the economies are being elaborated. It is not by chance that many APEC economies have dozens of free trade zone agreements in effect.
Let's give an example. Chile has 58 agreements of the kind, Vietnam – some dozens, the both countries being virtually open economies. New variants and modes of such agreements are being elaborated there. And it is very important to Russia. First of all, Russia is actively participating in negotiations and other stages of elaboration of the agreements about the free trade zones. In summary, Russia by now has received 35 proposals on the formation of free trade zones with different economies including the BRIC countries such as India and China. Yesterday an agreement was signed between the Eurasian Economic Commission, in the person of Andrey Alexandrovich Slepnev, and the Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam on the readiness to begin the negotiations on the establishment of a free trade zone with Vietnam i.e. between the Customs Union and Vietnam. I would like to emphasize that this is the domain not only of Russia but of all three countries of the Customs Union.
This transparency model chapter is very improtant, because, as part of our WTO duties, we have taken upon ourselves crtical commitments on publication of trade-related draft regulatory instruments, laws, governmental resolutions, ministerial and departmental decisions before their entrance into effect. This provision is very important and the adoption of the chapter by the APEC means that all APEC economies are ready to accept such arrangements and such publication of regulatory instruments as a standard for their free trade formation activities.
Definitely, very important decisions were taken in the field of food security. The food security declaration has been adopted as one of the appendixes to the declaration of the leaders. This is a very important item, which deals, primarily, with ensuring access to food for all population strata and all the economies.
It is encouraging that the APEC economies have agreed (or, to be precise, are agreeing) on the collective actions aimed to stimulate the investments in agriculture, in the infrastructure, in storage of agricultural commodities and creation of mechanisms for prompt response in case of food crises.
Doubtlessly, the issues connected with the formation of reliable chains of deliveries represent an important item both for the Russian Federation, and for the APEC economies. These decisions are principal for our economy, since they open new opportunities for development of our transcontinental transport corridors, such as the Northern Sea Route, the Baikal-Amur and the Trans-Siberian Mainlines. Today the APEC participant economies are coordinating the measures that can potentially enable utilization of our strategic geo-economic advantages.
Equally essential are a series of decisions recorded in the form of appendixes to the declaration of the leaders that is dedicated to the development of different systems to ensure innovative growth. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization is a complex and sophisticated system of various types of interaction between the APEC economies intended to achieve various goals; in particular, as a part of the innovation interaction, decisions concerning the development of educational potential in the APEC economies, enhancement of educational potential mobility, students mobility, and migration of students between economies have been taken.
One of the reasons why it is so important is that today here we are holding our meeting in a university that has yet to become a university. There are still no premises for the university itself. Development of educational potential (including that of the Far East) is critical from the point of view of development of Russia. The conditions required for that were also specified in the course of the Ministers' meeting. There are also some other decisions. I am ready to tell about them, if the corresponding questions arise.
Question to A.R. Belousov: You have mentioned that a certain list of the environmentally-friendly, green commodities has been adopted, and even named the number of such commodities. Could you name at least some of the basic positions and tell, which of these goods, from your point of view, we can produce in Russia?
A.R. Belousov: To begin with, I would like to make a clarification. We were discussing not the green goods, not the environmentally-friendly food supplies, but those goods which provide ecological growth. I will give the examples of commodities included into this list. It encompasses the measurment equipment for water and air quality assurance, special monitoring and control systems for the state of the environment, the furnaces and other kinds of equipment for garbage incineration, wind power generators, alternating current generators and so on. That means that we are speaking about the equipment which provides quality assurance of the state of environment.
Question to S.V. Lavrov: Was the subject of establishment of a so-called stock exchange of technologies and the terms of it implementation touched during the meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation?
S.V. Lavrov: As I have already noted, this subject has been discussed within the framework of the Business Advisory Council, where the Russian chairmen (three large companies from Russia are participating in this venue) have came up with the initiative of creation of the Partnership in the field of technologies. The Policy Partnership on Food Security was created some years ago. The APEC Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation, observance of the intellectual property rights was formed at the initiative of the Russian businessmen. It took only a year to elaborate the principles of its functioning, because this concept emerged for the first time during the previous summit, within the framework of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council.
Three working groups will be created within the framework of this partnership. They will be dedicated to innovations, intellectual property and technologies. The idea of the Fund of funds, which has been discussed within the framework of this discussion, is still being elaborated. But, as I repeat, the frameworks enabling the private-private partnership with the engagement of science have already been created, and our business circles, with their colleagues from other economies, possess a concrete schedule of functioning of the mentioned three mechanisms.
Question (to both ministers): Today the issues of logistics and delivery chains have been discussed in the course of the meeting. Have you gained the understanding of the readiness of the Asian partners to invest in the development of the Russian regions (in particular, the Far East) and into their infrastructure in order to simplify the delivery of the commodities from Asia to the West?
A.R. Belousov: I should begin with the clarification that it will be neither our partners, nor the economies, but private companies who will be making the investments. But in order to make a start to these investments (and we are interested in them) it is necessary to create particular logistic conditions. I'd rather say that they are quite specific. These conditions have been discussed and certain decisions were made on them.
What are these conditions? First of all, they require certain information standards, certain requirements to information technologies, information support of the movement of cargoes. I can but state that here we recieved certain advantages in connection with the creation of the GLONASS system. Recently, after the satellite group was deployed, this system started functioning, and it gives the principally new capabilities for tracing the movement of cargoes on territory of the Russian Federation and other economies. Secondly, it is necessary to observe the certain quality standards of storing the cargoes, transportation, logistics, etc. The third condition is the provision of intermodality. All these questions have been in the limelight of discussions, and the economies participating in the APEC have made decisions on how they will promote the development of these directions. All of them are, naturally, within the area of our interest.
S.V. Lavrov: I would like to add that the detailed recommendations on the directions mentioned by Andrey Removich were formulated during the special meeting of the ministers of transport, which took place in the previous month in St.-Petersburg. These measures (they are available for public access) are aimed at carrying out the task that was put by APEC economy leaders in Yokohama in 2010. It lies in raising the efficiency of regional cargo transportations by 10 % by 2015.
According to the assessments of the APEC Secretariat, if it is accomplished, all the APEC participants will save around 20 bln dollars per year. As you see, the objective is worth the efforts.
Question: The USA is now actively promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership programme (TPP). How does the Russian party assess its role in this programme, and is Russia planning to join it?
A.R. Belousov: I should state that in the long term prospect we doubtlessly expect Russia to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership programme. It is an important strategic initiative, but the speed of our movement in this direction, naturally, will be determined by the developing conditions and circumstances. I anticipate that this is not a question of the nearest future.
Question to A.R. Belousov: How are you going to solve the problem with the Russian Railways, the infrastructure of which is insufficient to provide the transportation of large volumes of cargoes in the Asia-Pacific region economy?
A.R. Belousov: First of all, I would not say that the infrastructure is insufficient. Though some restrictions exist here, they are not even related to the present moment, they just may emerge in the long term period. In order to grant the opportunity to build the new railways for the Russian Railways, it is necessary to increase its investment potential. And the core possibilities of its increase are related to the development of special investment documents, such as, for example, the infrastructural bonds on the security of the state. It is also necessary to provide the possibility to involve the long resources (these are the pension funds and the resources of the National Wealth Fund) through the mechanisms of our development institutes, first of all, through the Vnesheconombank. Such tasks have been placed, and the Government now is very actively elaborating this issue.
We see a lot of problems here. It concerns building the high-speed railways, including the railways for cargo transportation, it concerns also the changes of topology of our railways, which means, in particular, forming the Moscow transport hub, so that not all the cargoes went through Moscow, and so on. This is a very capital-intensive, expensive project, but this problem will be solved with the methods that I have outlined.
Question to A.R. Belousov: What do you mean by the development of the mechanism of rapid responce to the food crisis? Could you concretize it? Is it also possible to consider that this is one of the important components in the initiatives of the Russian Federation regarding the creation of the food union, which have been pushed several years ago?
A.R. Belousov: When speaking about this mechanism we mean the information exchange, i.e. informing each other about the arising food problems. But today some economies addressed the questions of the creation of the corresponding general insurance funds, for example, the fund of rice, which will act as a reserve in case of a crisis.
This problem is very important for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, because approximately one million people in the world are starving. According to different estimations, around 600 thousand of these persons live in the Asia-Pacific Region, therefore this problem is extremely important. I told you the average number. But right now, I have to say, the foundation of some infrastructural elements like such funds is a matter of the future. It is a problem demanding special decisions, and special discussion. At the present moment we have agreed upon informing each other.
A.R. Belousov: Creation of the free union is also one of our tasks. Such task has been put, it is one of landmarks towards which we are heading, but our speed will also depend on circumstances.
Question: You have mentioned the rational usage of geographical advantages. In the beginning of year the Chinese companies have taken part in the tender on the creation of the high-speed railway in Russia. Are we speaking about the joint development of the infrastructure with other APEC economies?
A.R. Belousov: I think that we need first of all to create this infrastructure. We are now elaborating a variety of mechanisms which would allow attracting foreign investments into such projects. Besides the abovementioned direction, we need to develop various insurance mechanisms which would make attractive the infrastructural projects of such funds, as, for example, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which concentrates rather a considerable amount of resources. Only after such steps we will be ready to hold a conversation on joint usage of such kind of projects.
Question: When the conversation drifts to the transport from Asia to Europe, infrastructure is the most widely discussed issue. However, the experts also name other problems – the problems with customs, bureaucracy, corruption and so on. What are the efforts of Russia in this direction?
A.R. Belousov: I cannot but state that we are rather intensively working in this direction is now developed. In December of the previous year the current President of Russia Vladimir Putin, who was the Prime Minister at that time, came up with an initiative, which received the name of National Entrepreneurship Initiative. Its essence consists in solving the questions of the investment climate, including the issues of customs administration. These issues are primary mostly due to the efforts of the businesses themselves. That means that our largest business associations are jointly working in order to find the solution for these problems.
They are developing roadmaps, on the basis of which the decisions are taken. As a matter of fact, these decisions become the standard documents because they are confirmed by the decrees of the Government, and become obligatory for all participants. The first roadmap in this field, which was approved in May and the implementation of which has already begun, is a roadmap on the improvement of customs administration. I have to mention that the indices of the Ease of Doing Business from the rating of the World Bank are taken as concrete milestones. It means that according to this roadmap by 2018 Russia should enter into the first twenty of economies with the best customs administration. This document specifies the concrete actions, which are already being implemented, and I assure you that literally in a year the Russian customs will be altered beyond recognition.
Question (to both ministers): On September, 2-4nd of this year the APEC youth forum took place in Vladivostok. It was one of the Russian initiatives implemented during this year. What do you know about the declaration and the ideas which were advanced by the young leaders, and what are, in general, your views on the prospects of cooperation with youth? Are there any plans of creation of some specific mechanisms of interaction? Young leaders can offer non-standard decisions, for example, in the field of supporting Small and Medium Businesses or development of human resources. They are facing them every day, and it is difficult to notice them from the ministerial or even expert level.
S.V. Lavrov: Of course, first of all we want not to co-operate with youth, but to perceive the young people as an organic part of our society. Your question transfers us at once to another age category. The fact that the tradition of conducting the APEC youth forums has become stronger and has settled is a reflection of a general tendency. The youth forums of the same type are also conducted during the preparation for the G8 summits.
Russia came up with an initiative of carrying out of the Youth forum in 2006, before the summit of the Group of Eight in St.-Petersburg. The forum was conducted there, as well as, by the way, the meeting within the framework of the parliamentary dimension of the Group of Eight. The recommendations that were made during the forum are introduced for consideration by the leaders, and I assure you that they will definitely make a responce. Everything that is declared reflects the aspirations of young people which populate this rapidly developing region. And, of course, the leaders should take into consideration the thoughts and the hopes of the youth. I am sure that so it will be.
Question (to A.R. Belousov): Press conference was postponed by two hours. Has it been caused by the contradictions considering the list of the commodities, which you have already mentioned? If it is so, could you tell us what was the nature of the discrepancies, and what was the reason of the conflict? What positions were the most arguable? Which economies spoke against the expansion of this list and on what positions? Were the automobile engines working on nonfossil fuel and bicycles included into this list? What was excluded from the final list?
S.V. Lavrov: Have you used to work as an investigator?
Question: Is it an employment offer?
S.V. Lavrov: As you can possibly guess, I am from another agency.
A.V.Belousov: The colleague had a long interview with me yesterday and, probably, these questions remained «on the sidelines».
The matter is that the notion of "conflict" and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation are incompatible. You see, it is a special structure, where everything is decided on a consensus basis, and the economies which are doubtlessly competing against each other on different markets, in various geopolitical, geoeconomic projects, behave in a different way in this format. Here the atmosphere is different just because everyone should eventually come to a consensus. Therefore there was no conflict from the very beginning.
But the matter is that the APEC economies are very different. In this sense APEC is a unique organisation considering the spectrum of decisions and qualitative distinctions between the participants of decision-making process. It includes the developed economies, such as the United States of America, Canada, as well as the developing economies. It also includes both the rapid-growing economies with large population, such as China, for example, or Indonesia, and the so-called small countries, which face the problems of different nature – the problems of overcoming the poverty of the main part of the population.
Elaborating the consensus between this economies is a very difficult task. Indeed, the last two hours we exclusively dedicated to the discussion of the issues of the list of the ecological commodities, but there was no conflict, and a considerable number of economies participated in it, not just two or three. Many countries had sensitive positions, but we have elaborated the general decisions and common approaches.
Question (to S.V. Lavrov): Moscow and Seoul have a lot of interesting economic projects, but, as we know, there is one more state located between these countries, which is not a part of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. How are the issues of cooperation solved between these three states which, among other things, are also close neighbours?
S.V. Lavrov: All the three countries that you have named - the Russian Federation, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea - have an interest in implementation of triangular projects. Practical discussions are already being conducted in this respect. Three applicable projects are being currently discussed. The first is building a gas pipeline to South Korea through the North Korea, the second is a similar power supply line, and the third is the connection of the railways of North and South Korea with the Trans-Siberian Railway. The projects are in different stages of progress, and concrete conversations are being held on all subjects.
Naturally, the political tension on the Korean peninsula that we are witnessing now does not promote that the businessmen engaged in these projects could successfully make progress. But none of the projects has been buried yet. On the contrary, we are interested in each of them.
A.R. Belousov: Thanks.