On 17 June, Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward a proposal to create a more extensive Eurasian partnership on the basis of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) that would involve China, India, Pakistan, Iran and a number of Community of Independent States (CIS) countries among others willing to join. The President was speaking at the plenary session of the 2016 Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.
«Our partners and we think that the EAEU can become one of the centres of a greater emergent integration area. Among other benefits, we can address ambitious technological problems within its framework, promote technological progress and attract new members», the President emphasized.
He noted that the issue was discussed at the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Astana in late May.
Putin also stressed the need to restore the relations with the European Union. «We bear no grudge, and we are ready to meet our European partners halfway», he stated.
The President voiced his hope for the EU, one of Russia’s key trade and economic partner, to join the new project. Putin said, one of the first steps for implementing this project would be the official start of negotiations on creating a comprehensive trade and economic partnership in Eurasia between the Eurasian Economic Union and China. «This project is undoubtedly open to Europe. And I believe such interaction can be mutually beneficial», he said.
Putin also reminded the participants of the forum of the plans to create a single energy market of hydrocarbons within the framework of the association by 2025. Russia and China plan to hold formal negotiations on the establishment of a trade and economic partnership in Eurasia with the participation of the Eurasian Economic Union.
According to the Russian President, the countries could start with industrial and investment cooperation as well as making customs clearance easier and protecting intellectual property rights.
The Eurasian Economic Union comprises Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. Tajikistan was formally invited to join the union and has expressed its interest in acceding. This month the EAEU will hold expert-level talks on creating a free trade zone with Iran.
The Union has an integrated single market of 183 million people and a gross domestic product of over 4 trillion US dollars. The EAEU introduces the free movement of goods, capital, services and people and provides for common transport, agriculture and energy policies, with provisions for a single currency and more extensive integration in the future.
The creation of «greater» Eurasian partnership is an alternative to the US-sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries signed on 4 February 2016, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed trade agreement between the European Union and the United States, with the aim of promoting trade and multilateral economic growth.
The US-imposed agreements keep Russia, China and many other countries out, not in. The protests against the TTIP are widely spread in Europe.
The TTP does not include China to make it a US-imposed initiative launched to counter the rival.
The Russia-proposed project has great prospects for the future as China is moving to the West by implementing its Silk Road project. The Old Continent is going through economic hardships. The Moscow-proposed partnership could trigger the process of getting Europe’s economy back on track.
In 2010 Russia offered to create a Unified Europe – free trade zone stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
The concept was refused. As a result, the entire European security structure has collapsed.
Now Europe and the states of Eurasia have another chance. The project proposed by Russia will benefit all. There will be no dominating state to make others dance to its tune. President Putin’s plan envisages the system of counterweights. For instance, China, an economic giant, will be balanced by Russia, India and Iran. The US-sponsored TTP and TTIP are regional projects to make pale the importance of WTO in favor of the United States. The Eurasian partnership is a global plan uniting the nations on the basis of WTO to make the global rules prevail. Unlike the US-sponsored projects, the larger Eurasian partnership does not exclude other countries willing to join. It’s open for anyone and there will be no losers. This is a win-win offer.
There are many talks and discussions ahead. But the idea has been floated. A global project based on common regulations and equality is a lucrative alternative to regional projects based on the rules set by a dominating power.