Russia has taken over the rotating chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in 2012 and will host this year’s APEC Leaders’ Week in Vladivostok. For Russia this honour comes with a great sense of responsibility. Just as Russia is an integral part of the vast and forward-reaching Asia-Pacific region, that is crucial for the socio-economic development of Russia, especially Siberia and the Far East. Therefore, one of the country’s top priorities is to promote trade and investment cooperation with Asia-Pacific countries and to actively participate in regional integration.
We have many proposals for our Asia-Pacific partners that seek to address problems in spheres of energy, transportation, research and technology, and environmental protection; to promote dialogue among civilizations and ensure military-political stability in the region; to boost cooperation in emergency response and in the fight against international terrorism.
The APEC leaders’ Honolulu declaration says, “Our region is now the vanguard for global growth.” Russia, as the current APEC chair, will do its best to reinforce the region’s leading position.
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What does Russia intend to do as APEC chair? First of all, we plan to ensure continuity in APEC’s work, while also trying to expand the forum’s traditional agenda in a constructive manner.
Russia’s key objective is to further liberalise trade and investment and to facilitate economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region. We expect our cooperation in these fundamental APEC spheres to yield practical results. Now that Russia has joined the World Trade Organisation, the country’s representatives will be able to fully participate in trade liberalisation discussions. A consolidated position among APEC member economies should jumpstart multilateral trade talks and make them more constructive.
Russia’s energetic involvement in regional integration is a conscious choice, and indeed the right choice. Following the successful conclusion of the WTO accession process, Russia is now ready to start talks on free trade agreements with APEC economies. Of course, Russia will act jointly with Kazakhstan and Belarus, the other members of the trilateral Customs Union. Added to the potential of the Common Economic Space, this could pave the way to a fundamentally new form of APEC integration and help expand the Asia-Pacific market to the whole of the Eurasian continent.
Russia also plans to promote APEC cooperation on food security. Like all other member economies, we have a stake in ensuring that food is available, affordable, safe and of high quality. In light of the growing social commitments of governments in the post-crisis period, we must develop stable food markets and dampen price fluctuations. Furthermore, we must continue to search for ways to ensure agricultural development based on rising mutual investments, modern technologies and compliance with quality standards.
The prospects of greater integration in APEC are closely connected to the need to improve logistics or (as it is often described within APEC) to ensure supply chains connectivity in the region. Russia is prepared to offer access to its transport corridors, which are the shortest route between Asia and Europe. We know that they must be upgraded, which will require major investment. This is what we will be discussing with our partners, who will surely show interest in our proposals. We have developed practical ways to use modern technology to resolve transportation issues, in particular organising cargo routes, cargo handling and vehicle tracking.
Innovation-based economic development is crucial for stable economic growth. This issue, which Russia sees as a priority, has been met with a lively response from our APEC partners. We will promote extensive interaction among universities, research centres and companies. Cooperation in education and developing human capital is vital, and the protection of intellectual property is becoming increasingly important. We also see opportunities for advancing joint initiatives in these spheres within APEC.
Russia is a leading supplier of energy to the global market, but energy will be just one of many focuses during Russia’s tenure as APEC chair. It is certainly an important issue today, but we should also think about tomorrow. Therefore, we will promote further constructive discussions of the entire range of energy security issues as well as green growth.
The Asia-Pacific region is, unfortunately, prone to natural disasters and hazards. Earthquakes and tsunamis, anthropogenic catastrophes and epidemics demand that we redouble our efforts to better prepare APEC member economies for possible natural disasters and other emergencies.
During its tenure as APEC chair, Russia also will focus on cooperation in the fight against terrorism and transnational crime. We believe that no one will question the importance of this aspect of APEC’s activity.
These are the main areas of Russia’s activity under the motto, “Integrate to Grow, Innovate to Prosper.” There is no doubt that by common efforts in 2012 we will successfully deepen Asia-Pacific integration in the name of economic growth and prosperity in the region.