APEC – A LOCOMOTIVE OF INTEGRATION
On the eve of the meeting of leaders of the APEC countries in Bangkok, I would like to share some thoughts on Russia’s participation in this Forum.
First and foremost, joining this authoritative international association was the right step for Russia. I am convinced that our partners in the Forum are satisfied with the choice they made in the autumn of 1998.
Russia is a reliable political and economic partner. This is becoming more obvious and accepted. That not a single serious global or interregional problem can be solved without Russia's active and equitable participation, moreover, contrary to its interests. This is a geopolitical reality now. This is why Russia’s course is secured in its foreign policy conception on the active development of interaction in all vectors, including the Asia-Pacific region. Kipling's well-known postulate, which seemed to be unshakeable in the past of “West Is West and East Is East” is outdated. These vectors are equal for Russia.
Lately, Russia’s trade, economic and investment ties with foreign partners have become markedly active. In particular, I would like to note the intensification of cooperation with the USA, China, India, Japan, and Southeast Asian and Latin American states. Investors from western and eastern countries are enjoying market opportunities in our vast territory with equal vigour. This is especially notable in Eastern Russia, in Siberia and the Far East, which have various natural resources and requisite technological and scientific potential. Personally I have been convinced of this fact more than once during my trips across the country.
It is only natural that we are striving to use APEC membership in order to incorporate the potentials of the Russian East into the mechanism of economic integration, that is already operating within the framework of the Forum. Guided by sound pragmatism, we are striving, on the one hand, to take a more active part in the solution of the tasks facing the APR community and, on the other hand, use the resources of regional multilateral cooperation in the interests of the development of Siberia and the Russian Far East.
Russia sees the APEC Forum as a locomotive of integration in the area of ”the Pacific Ring”. APEC members differ from one another in size, the number and composition of the population, history, culture, language, religion, traditions and customs. Moreover, it is important that many different peoples have been united by a common desire to solve social and economic problems by pooling efforts through consensus. Russia takes an active and interested role in this.
The Fight Against Terrorism: A COMMON TASK
Counteracting international terrorism is among the priority directions of the Forum's activity.
Russia firmly supports APEC's active efforts to strengthen counter-terrorist cooperation. These are both cutting short financial support for terrorism and ensuring the safety of trade and transport arteries and information systems. Anticipatory measures need to be sought to create insurance-stabilisation mechanisms in the political, financial, economic, intelligence, and military areas. I particularly emphasize that we believe it is necessary to improve schemes of compensation for material damage caused by terrorist acts. Russia has already drawn the attention of the international community to this problem at the 58th session of the UN General Assembly.
At the regional level, APEC's natural partners in combating terrorism in the region are ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum on Security and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Now I would like to say a few words about the contribution made by Russia to the common cause of combating terrorism. We are actively striving to block the financial channels of this evil. Our country is not only perfecting legislative mechanisms, but also really combating money laundering. Important international-legal acts have been ratified or have been submitted for ratification. The Russian Committee on Financial Monitoring has started operating at full capacity. Russia’s permanent membership in FATF is seen as an obvious proof of our effective work. We take an active part in the exchange of experience with our foreign partners and are strengthening cooperation with them at the level of relevant departments and services.
Russia sees APEC as an important element of the efforts to draft a long-term strategy to eradicate ”the 21st-century evil” on both the regional and global scale.
THREAT TO THE ECONOMY
At present, terrorism has also become a serious economic problem. By some estimates, the attack by terrorists on September 11, 2001, has led to a one-percent reduction in the world’s GNP. As a result of terrorist acts in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries, the number of tourists coming to this region has decreased markedly, while the development of other industries has slowed down. The terrorist threat and political instability in some of the world's regions that are the key suppliers of energy resources put in question the sustainable delivery of energy resources in the Asia-Pacific region and throughout the world.
Russia is prepared to contribute greatly to repelling this serious threat to the economic prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. This contribution will be practical, effective and mutually beneficial. I mean the development of a new energy structure in the Asia-Pacific region, and above all in East Asia, through the creation of a system of oil and natural gas pipelines and tanker delivery of liquefied natural gas from the eastern areas of Russia which have considerable hydrocarbon resources. We are working on these issues on a bilateral basis with adjacent countries and will step up these efforts. I think the time has come for the APEC community to seriously address the issue of the new energy structure. The solution of this problem would be an effective reply to the threats and challenges to energy stability in the region. In our opinion, APEC mechanisms can greatly contribute to the fulfilment of this task.
Problems of Globalisation: PROS AND CONS
By joining the Forum, Russia has assumed the responsibility of facilitating, jointly with other partners, the creation of a system of free and open trade and investment activity in the Asia-Pacific region. We confirm our readiness to move towards the Bogor Goals of fundamental importance for APEC, keeping in mind that such a movement should take into account the specific features and, most importantly, the true potential of each participant.
I do not believe it is important that one country can shift to fifth gear, while another cannot do more than second or third gear. What is important is that we all are moving in the same direction and nobody hits the brakes unnecessarily or uses the hand brake when seeing unexpected obstacles. I refer to protectionism in the form of unilateral limiting measures in trade, excessive use of anti-dumping procedures, and the like.
As we see it, both ”new“ and ”old“ protectionism provokes a predictable chain reaction and limits competition. It has an especially pernicious effect on developing and transition-economy countries.
In my opinion, we should more resolutely heed to the requirements of real economy and facilitate the strengthening of trade and economic contacts in the region. For our part, we suggest launching an APEC dialogue on the creation of favourable conditions for the non-ferrous metals market. In August of this year we hosted the first international seminar on this subject in Bratsk. I think this dialogue would promote the implementation of fundamental APEC ideas.
The overwhelming majority of APEC economies are members of the World Trade Organisation. It is logical that the Forum's modus vivendi is largely determined by WTO rules and depends on the situation in that organisation. I use this opportunity to express deep gratitude to our APEC colleagues for their support of Russia's efforts to join the WTO. In this connection I would not dramatise the situation that developed after the ministerial conference in Cancun. On the contrary, I think that the discussions in Mexico were highly instrumental for our advance towards a compromise.
I want to mention also the APEC discussion of globalism and regionalism in the context of movement towards the implementation of the idea of free trade.
Russia is closely watching globalisation of the world economy. It is clearly an objective phenomenon that influences economic growth positively. However, globalisation is also facing humankind with such serious problems as the growing differentiation between countries in standards of living, with the poorest countries being pushed to the outskirts of global civilisation and unequal access to information and communication technologies.
SUPPORT FOR SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESS
I think that the reduction of the gap in the development standards of our economies is a highly important task. This means not only economic progress. I repeat again that higher standards of living and, hence, social stability lead to the eradication of the roots of such a dangerous phenomenon as international terrorism.
In regard to this, we highly value APEC’s assistance to small and medium-sized business, which means new jobs and the basis for the development of the middle class and, hence, sustainable social and economic development. Moreover, small businesses are a relatively quick and effective method of solving economic and social problems.
We are especially interested in drawing on the experience of Forum participants in the creation of new non-traditional methods and structures for the provision of funds to small and micro-businesses.
Russian small and medium-sized businesses employ 17% of the population. The system of registration and licensing of small businesses has been cutting red tape and the system of taxation and accounting has been greatly simplified.
However, there are other problems hindering the development of small and medium-sized businesses, in particular inadequate access to financial resources and administrative barriers. We see these problems and are overcoming them.
International cooperation, including the use of APEC mechanisms, is a vital instrument in solving issues. It is clear that businessmen, people who ensure the business activity of the state, should be free to move around and it is our task to simplify their ability for interaction.
Today, we may say that in practice we have run into new non-traditional problems. And the Forum is looking for answers to these.
Some people wonder what such a forum as APEC can do to fight, say, SARS, when we have the World Health Organisation for that.
Of course, APEC cannot solve the mystery of new viruses but it can create a system of rapid reaction to fight them. First, in order that this be done, each economy should establish points of contact, depending on the nature of the problem at hand to exchange relevant information. Second, they could make coordinated decisions to overcome crises. We believe that these decisions should maximally correspond to the task of uninterrupted operation of Asia-Pacific markets and free movement of people. Also, measures taken by individual governments should proceed within a general line without detriment to others.
WE ARE DIFFERENT BUT WITH COMMON TASKS
The APEC summit in Bangkok will be held under the motto “World of Diversity: Partnership for the Future.” The meaning of this motto, suggested by Thailand, the presiding country of the Forum, is clear.
Yes, we are all different. However, we see common problems before us and are ready to search together for their answers.
The world has changed in the 14 years since the creation of APEC. There is no more confrontation of political-economic blocs and even the geographic map of the world has changed with the appearance of new states.
In these new conditions we should work even harder to strengthen collaboration in the movement towards common APEC goals. In our view, it should fully take into account the diversity of the Forum economies, as proclaimed in the subject of the summit.
Obviously we should likewise develop our partnership for the future.
I am sure that we can fulfil this task.