Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Speech and answers of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia S.V. Lavrov to media questions during the course of the briefing “on the margins” of the Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade of APEC participating Countries in Vladivostok on the 5 of September 2012
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
Today the meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs and trade ministers of economies participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation has opened. This is the final phase of the Summit, which will be held on September 8-9 in Vladivostok. This year held under the chairmanship of Russia went by the motto "Integration - the development and innovation - in the interest of prosperity."
Our priorities which have become the priorities of APEC, were supported by all the other participants. These include areas such as the liberalization of trade and investment regimes, the deepening of economic integration, additional measures to ensure food security, steps to improve transport and logistics chains in the region, and more effective use of opportunities for innovative growth.
The Russian side held more than a hundred events during the year of its chairmanship of APEC. During the course of the meetings of the industrial ministers, senior officials and other working parts, seminars, and conferences about 50 Russian initiatives and projects were worked through. All the activities of APEC fit in the overall efforts of the international community to overcome the global economic and financial crisis.
During this morning's plenary session, we will discuss two topics. Firstly, we summed up the results for the year on issues of food security. Secondly, we considered the results of relevant activities during the year to enhance the readiness of regional economies for emergencies. Over a business dinner the presentations by the President of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission V.B. Khristenko, as well as the presentation of the Deputy of the General Director of the World Trade Organization R.Yerksy on the problems faced by the WTO Doha Round were listened to.
Today in the afternoon a discussion on the development of the multilateral trading system, liberalization of trade and investment regimes, and regional economic integration would be held. Tomorrow, the ministers will discuss the issues of transportation and logistics systems, and innovative development. The results of these discussions will be reflected in the draft of the Declaration of the summit, which will be presented for approval by the leaders and the Joint Ministerial Statement. Today, all the participants confirmed the mood for a serious, constructive work. I think we will do it accurately and in time.
Question: Russia announced the regional economic integration in the Asia Pacific region as one of its priorities. However, it is also a member of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space. How do Russia's APEC partners evaluate these processes? Can we consider the Customs Union as an example for integration in the Asia-Pacific region?
S.V.Lavrov: Firstly, all APEC economies participants are members of WTO. Customs Union, the Common Economic Space, and the future Eurasian Economic Union fully fit into the norms and rules of the WTO - in this sense, there are no questions about it.
Secondly, as I said, the President of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission V.B. Khristenko during a business lunch told in detail about the processes that are taking place in the framework of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space, and using specific examples and arguments showed a full compatibility of these processes with integration processes in the Asia Pacific region.
Moreover, the place of the summit - Vladivostok, Eastern Bosporus Strait - in fact is the symbol of joining the Eurasian continent and the Pacific. I think, essentially, and geographically no problem arises.
Question: Primorye is one of the four defined gambling zones in Russia, but so far, not a lot of volunteers are coming there. In your opinion, will the APEC summit promote investment by foreign partners in this project?
S.V. Lavrov: I cannot exhaustively answer your question because it is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and this question did not appear on the agenda of any of the ministerial meeting, or on the summit of APEC. I'm not a player, in the sense in which you have mentioned. I play football and other sports.
Question: Are there any plans to address the issues related to facilitating the movement of citizens of the participating countries in the framework of APEC? In particular, is the process of cancelling the visa regime between Russia and South Korea going forward?
S.V.Lavrov: There are several dimensions to this situation. Firstly, businessman has already been introduced to the simplified regime of the Border Crossing of APEC participating economies. There are special cards used by businessmen, and this mechanism (and Russia joined him recently) is already running.
Today, when we discussed the problems of improving emergency preparedness to anticipate possible disasters and response, disaster management, and considered the idea that was put forward by our colleague from Indonesia. We are talking about an agreement on the facilitation of humanitarian assistance and the arrival of personnel involved in emergency situations. I think the idea will be supported, and we will agree on such arrangements within APEC.
In addition to the multilateral dimension concerns about the visa regime, we are holding negotiations on the bilateral visa facilitation with a number of states. You correctly pointed out that the Republic of Korea proposed to discuss the draft agreement on the abolition of the visa requirement for short-term travel for our citizens. We are ready for such talks almost with every economy of Asia-Pacific region.
Question: Today, the General Secretary of NATO, A. Fogh Rasmussen visited Armenia. How would you evaluate the visit?
S.V.Lavrov: General Secretary of NATO visits the capitals of not only the member countries of NATO, but the capitals of other states as well, particularly those that have a partnership with NATO. Sometimes he visits the Russian Federation. This is consistent with the existing relations between NATO and partner countries.
Question: As we know, you will be having a bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on "the margins" of the Summit. Could you please elaborate on the topics you are going to discuss and whether the problem of the missile defense will be stressed?
S.V. Lavrov: It would be unethical of me for a couple of days before the meeting to publicly speak about the issues that we plan to discuss. We surely will inform you on the results of the conversation.
Question: Throughout Russia the need to accelerate the development of the Far East and Eastern Siberia is expressed. Some experts talk about the reorientation of Russia to the East, that is, at the Asia-Pacific region. How can you comment on this?
S.V.Lavrov: Russian government and I, personally, have answered this question many times. Reorientation is out of the question by the twist of fate, geography, history, thanks to the work of our ancestors already oriented to the West and the East, and the South and the North. It is in our best interests to make the best out of the unique geographical, geopolitical and economic situation in Russia, especially since, as you know the economic and social recovery of Siberia and the Far East is one of the priorities of the Russian state. This was said more than once by the President and the leadership of the Government of our country. This is the most important task. Not only the domestic Russian documents were accepted but relevant programs aimed at lifting these areas too. We have a two-sided document with China on the development of the close economic and investment cooperation in East Siberia, the Far East and adjacent regions of China.
This is not about that we did all this, forgetting the rest of what happens in the relationship with our European and South Asian partners. We want to grow organically, to use all of its comparative advantage.
Question: Recently, the apparent territorial disputes with Japan, Russia, China and the Republic of Korea are seen. How could you comment on that?
S.V.Lavrov: I do not consider myself eligible to comment on the relationship between Japan and other countries. Regarding those negotiations, which run between the Russian Federation and our Japanese neighbors, I have spoken already. We are interested in the most profound and extensive cooperation in all areas – as was agreed by the leaders of Russia and Japan in previous years - n the trade, economic, investment, cultural and humanitarian means. We are interested in close cooperation in the international arena between our countries in order to strengthen security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
We are ready to discuss all issues of concern to our Japanese colleagues, including those associated with the conclusion of a peace treaty. Our position on this is well known - we are ready to continue negotiations to seek such an agreement, which will take into account the interests of our countries and will be accepted by our people. One of the cornerstones, one of the main starting points is the need to rely on the rule of law, including, of course, the recognition of the realities of the Charter of the United Nations.
Question: You said that the Customs Union is serious regarding negotiations and cooperation with APEC. Based on what legal status does the Custom Union (CU) hold negotiations with APEC? Is it an entire organization, or individual members of the TC? Are there any difficulties from APEC, or the Customs Union from a legal point of view?
S.V.Lavrov: There are no negotiations, in the sense in which this term is normally used, between TC and APEC. The reality is - the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The very signing of the relevant international documents means new legal fact - the Customs Union is already a subject of international law. Countries that formed it, delegated a lot of authority to a supranational body - the Eurasian Economic Commission. And when we are with some of the economies of the Asia-Pacific region is now conducting negotiations for a free trade area (and of the economies that are part of APEC, such negotiations are with Vietnam and New Zealand), they lead the Commission of the Customs Union, because its member states have transferred competence in this collective supranational body.
Question: You that that it was talked about the development of transport hubs today. Could you clarify in more detailed form whether Trans-Siberian railway is included in those transport hubs, meaning is there a railway from Moscow to Vladivostok?
S.V.Lavrov: This topic touches all the opportunities that exist to expedite traffic flow, the movement of goods and passengers. We will discuss it tomorrow, with my colleague the Minister of Economic Development of Russia A.R.Belousov can go more deeply in this issue at the final press conference after the ministerial meeting.
Question: I am visiting Vladivostok for 15 years and I can say that I see fewer Asian people there than in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. One of the main reasons for the dynamism of North America is Asian immigration. My question is regarding an intelligent immigration. We attract people with higher education, they are likely to invest, create jobs. Is Russia discussing its new immigration policy with its Asian neighbors?
S.V.Lavrov: We recently adopted the Concept of Migration Policy. The solutions are approved, which greatly simplify the acquisition of multiple, long-term, five-year visas for skilled workers. So, we think and act in the same direction.
Regarding the comment that you can see fewer Asian people in the Far East, then maybe you have not toured the whole Far East?
Question: Today, one South Korean newspaper reported that soon Chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, Mr. Kim Yong Nam arrives in Vladivostok, where he will meet with President Vladimir Putin on 9 or 10 September. Will you participate in this meeting, and can you comment on it?
S.V.Lavrov: We are always open to contacts on various levels with our neighbors, one of which is Korean Democratic People's Republic. As for specific dates and locations of these contacts, I advise to follow official reports state structures and not the news reports.
Question: What are the plans of Russia on cooperation in the energy sector, in particular, with Brunei and other economies?
S.V.Lavrov: Regarding the cooperation, we really have a great experience in this field. In the course of our dialogue with ASEAN countries, which will continue after a month and a half (at the next event in Cambodia), the topic of energy cooperation, of course, will be affected.
There are a number of projects with individual ASEAN countries. We are ready to develop cooperation in various forms. The same is true of our bilateral relations with Brunei.
Thank you for your attention.