Our country has been a full member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum since 1998. On the eve of this year’s APEC summit in Hanoi, I would like to share my views about the road this multilateral grouping has travelled so far and about the future prospects for our cooperation.
Over the 17 years since the forum was established, it has become one of the most representative and influential integration organisations in the Asia-Pacific region. The economic area represented by APEC is the world’s fastest-growing region today and our experts forecast that the forum will continue to consolidate its position as a leading organisation over the coming years.
As a Eurasian power, Russia closely links its own social and economic development plans, especially in Siberia and the Far East, to active participation in regional integration. This is a natural choice for us and a matter of strategic principle.
The experience APEC has built up in jointly formulating trade and economic rules and developing investment cooperation are of particular importance to us. Cooperation in this area is based mainly on the criteria set by the World Trade Organisation, of which Russia is not yet a member. But we nonetheless follow this work with interest and take part where possible, including in areas such as lowering transaction costs, removing excessive state regulation in the economy and improving national economic legislation.
We share and understand APEC’s objectives of strengthening the foundations of the market economy and creating active public-private partnerships aimed at boosting small and medium businesses and resolving social development issues. The creation and functioning of various free trade zones within the APEC region is something of great interest to our country. We make detailed analysis of the models our partners offer for improving the domestic investment climate and we study their experience in fighting corruption. All of this has a practical impact on our reforms, which aim to develop and diversify Russia’s foreign economic ties.
We share fully the economic and social aspirations that bind all the forum’s members together. In this respect, a positive assessment of Russia’s individual action plan in APEC is important to us.
At the Hanoi summit, we will discuss the action plan to implement the already approved roadmap for reaching the Bogor objectives. We have high hopes of this document and we hope that it will play an important part in building a system of free and open trade and investment activity in the region.
At the same time, however, it is clear that reaching the goals that were set is not as easy as it seemed at the moment the Bogor Declaration and the Osaka Action Plan were adopted. We see clearly the political and economic changes taking place in the world and the rise of new threats that jeopardise international security and stability and pose a danger to normal economic development in some parts of the world. The APEC forum and its member countries must take these changes into account. I think that we need to try to avoid a situation where the organisation’s guidelines, as set firmly in the Bogor Declaration, could end up in contradiction with the logic of global development and the real possibilities of the APEC economies.
The APEC forum was created as a multilateral mechanism primarily concerned with economic matters. But life itself obliges it to include international and regional policy issues on its agenda.
One of the key tasks before us today is to counter international terrorism. The Asia-Pacific countries, including the APEC member countries, have differing development levels, and it is no secret that terrorists seek ‘temporary shelter’ in a number of the economically less prosperous regions. This is why, as well as taking measures to liquidate hotbeds of terrorism, we need to work consistently to eradicate the ‘social roots’ of terrorism, that is, poverty, hunger and chronic unemployment. And overall, we must work to reduce the social and economic gap between countries and peoples.
I believe that APEC offers considerable possibilities for achieving these goals. Our work to encourage public-private partnerships, investment and economic activeness, should take into account questions such as providing assistance to help boost growth in the poorest countries, above all through the use of APEC’s funds and the funds that international organisations and financial institutions can make available upon targeted requests from the forum.
The humanitarian and ideological aspect of fighting terrorism is just as important. In this respect, the APEC initiative to develop a dialogue between cultures and religions is particularly significant. It is important that the Asia-Pacific region, with its rich diversity of cultures and ethnic groups, build up solid immunity to the ideology of a so-called ‘clash of civilisations’, nationalism and extremism. I am sure that APEC’s inherent spirit of trust, tolerance and partnership forms a good foundation for reaching this goal. And I think it is deeply symbolic that the main countries behind this initiative include Indonesia and Russia – both countries with populations unique in the diversity of their ethnic and religious makeup.
We must continue work to cut off the funds that feed terrorism. APEC has formulated this objective quite clearly, and this is further proof of the forum’s ability to adapt to today’s realities. I want to stress that Russia is ready to cooperate most actively with its partners in this area.
We are also ready to take part in intensifying cooperation within APEC on combating organised crime, drugs trafficking and arms smuggling. I am sure that our countries’ law enforcement agencies have the capacity not only to organise exchanges of relevant information, but to take the agenda further and plan and carry out coordinated action against those who violate the law.
Transport and information security are areas we consider to be of great importance, for they form one of the main conditions that enable the functioning of the trade and telecommunications arteries so vital to the vast Asia-Pacific region. State authorities and business circles have an equal interest in ensuring that these arteries function normally and are reliably protected against any criminal intent and act. Russia’s concrete contribution to cooperation in this area is the initiative to create a system for protecting key energy infrastructure facilities, including through rapid reaction to emerging threats, which was proposed recently in the APEC Special Group on Combating Terrorism.
International energy security plays a crucial part in economic development. We recognise that the rise in world oil prices makes this issue particularly important for many APEC countries today.
As one of the leading energy resources suppliers on the world market, Russia is ready to cooperate in this area. It is our conviction that we need to develop a partnership in this area based on conditions that are favourable to all involved, conditions based on mutual responsibility of the energy producers and consumers, a fair distribution of the risks between them and an exchange of energy sector assets. I note in this respect that the action plan adopted by the G8 summit in St Petersburg sets out measures to increase transparency, predictability and stability on the energy markets and improve the investment climate in general. Along with these measures, we also need to develop energy conservation technology, diversify our energy sources and also diversify transport routes. Considerable practical steps need to be taken in areas such as ensuring energy infrastructure security, combating energy poverty and resolving environmental problems.
The growing demand for the creation of a new and more reliable energy configuration in the Asia-Pacific region makes all of these issues even more relevant. Russia is ready to work actively on implementing this far-reaching initiative. Furthermore, we intend to propose and carry out a number of specific infrastructure projects, namely, the construction of oil and gas pipelines to take energy resources from the eastern part of our country to the Asia-Pacific region. It is my view that APEC’s mechanisms can help resolve more effectively the task of ensuring reliable energy supplies to the region.
Cooperation in APEC also opens up new opportunities in the fight against infectious diseases. It is in our common interest to create an effective system of information exchange and take coordinated decisions when epidemics and pandemics arise. We also give our full support to the development of the partnership between the APEC members in the area of early warning of emergency situations in the region, and joint cleanup and rescue efforts.
The experience that APEC has accumulated in cooperation in the innovation sector, particularly in developing nanotechnology and exchanging knowledge in high technology areas such as computer and information science and biotechnology is of exceptional importance. Russia supports more active cooperation in these and other areas that will shape scientific and technological progress over the coming years. It is also important to further develop cooperation in the education sector, and the APEC members should give this objective their full attention.
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In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that we are optimistic about APEC’s future. It is within our power to overcome new challenges and continue our progress towards our common development goals. The central theme of the upcoming summit in Vietnam, ‘Towards a Dynamic Community for Sustainable Development and Prosperity’ clearly illustrates the direction the forum is taking today.
In keeping with our important choice of principle in the Asia-Pacific region, Russia will work actively with its partners to help reach the forum’s goals.
I am sure that the APEC forum, which has achieved a lot already, has the capacity to do much more still for the good of our countries and peoples and in the interest of peace, stability and progress in the region that we share.