Russia to take on active regional role
Updated: 2014-05-15 07:12
By Pu Zhendong in Qingdao, Shandong (China Daily)
Moscow will play an active part in Asia-Pacific affairs to advance the establishment of a regional free trade agreement, a senior Russian diplomat said on Wednesday.
"It is our long-term perspective that we build a free trade agreement for the Asia-Pacific region that includes every member economy in a single economic unit," said Valery Sorokin, Russian senior official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
"Geographically, Russia is part of, as well as the largest country in, the Asia-Pacific region, which of course dictates the necessity of being actively involved in all the aspects of the region such as politics, economy and security," Sorokin said.
In recent years, negotiations over several subregional trading blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership have accelerated in the region.
Sorokin said efforts should be made among APEC members to prevent the two negotiating processes from contradicting each other and fragmenting "the final goal of the one economic unit".
"All the models of regional integration should be open to everybody, and the negotiations should be transparent. We do not want the gate to the common Asia-Pacific economic unit to be closed forever," he said.
Sorokin, head of the Russian delegation, is attending the APEC 2014 Second Senior Officials' Meeting in Qingdao, Shandong province.
He said regional economies should work more actively to enhance connectivity on physical, institutional and people-to-people levels.
The remarks came days ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to China. Putin was expected to arrive in Shanghai on May 20 and attend the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.
Observers said Russia and China are highly likely to nail down a natural gas deal during Putin's visit after years of negotiations. Russia's top natural gas producer, Gazprom OAO, plans to start supplying China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually from 2018.
China has been Russia's largest trade partner during the past four years, while Russia is an important trade partner of China. Bilateral trade in the first four months of this year expanded 3.4 percent year-on-year to $29.06 billion.
Sorokin said bilateral trade is no longer limited to raw materials, as the two countries are seeking closer cooperation in the high-tech sphere.
"In this year's APEC, China has placed specific emphasis on innovative development, which is the only effective way to attain further sustainable growth," Sorokin said.
Calling Putin's visit "a major bilateral event of the year", Sorokin said the meeting of the two leaders will not only further develop economic relations between Russian and China, but will also boost cooperation in the international arena.
"At this time, some geopolitical realities have prompted us to be even more active in the eastern direction," he said.
Since political turmoil in eastern Ukraine erupted in November, the United States and the European Union accused Russia of inciting the unrest and slapped two rounds of sanctions on key economic sectors, including energy, banking and mining.
Sorokin said Russia's relations with Asian countries are developing further, across a range of sectors, including economic, technological and humanitarian fields.
"The intensification of our exchanges with Asian partners is particularly welcome. Russia is trying its best to pay equally important attention to both the East and the West, as we are a natural bridge between Europe and Asia," he said.
In 2012, Russia hosted the APEC meetings in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.