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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     14 December 2011

Russia –Asean FTA under plan
Russia intends to initiate the establishment of a free trade zone between the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (CU) and the Association of South-East Asia Nations (ASEAN), First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has declared. This project will be one of the priorities during Russia’s chairmanship in APEC in 2012.

We need to carry out talks and investigations about concluding agreements on a free trade zone with ASEAN  as a whole and its member-states separately, Igor Shuvalov said. He also said that Vietnam has already suggested the establishment of such a zone to Russia. At present its parameters are being worked out by experts. It is also necessary to coordinate these issues with Belarus and Kazakhstan, Russia’s partners in the CU.

It is logical to expect the Customs Union to become a link between the EU and ASEAN, expert Yuri Solozobov from the Institute of the National Strategy believes. He says that Russia has a very simple choice to make: either Russia will become a peripheral zone of the EU and ASEAN or it will establish systematic relations with them. The establishment process is under way with the EU, so now it is time to turn to ASEAN.

“Russia and the other CU countries are very profitable partners for ASEAN. We are rich in natural and human resources and we have many international projects outside the raw materials field. In particular, we are discussing  the project of a high-speed railway which will link South Korea and China with the EU. The railway will run across Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus. The industrial zones in East Siberia and the Far East can become centres of cooperation. I believe that the mutually advantageous cooperation with ASEAN on the basis of Russia’s powerful economic potential will have great prospects for the establishment of a union between Eurasian countries and the consolidation of partnership between ASEAN and the EU.”

The establishment of a free trade zone between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on the one hand and the EU on the other will insure these two large economic spaces against future financial crises, analyst of the Institute of the CIS Countries Andrey Grozin believes. The more so because ASEAN needs serious insurance mechanisms against potential crises associated with the western economic model, Grozin says.

“Our two economic spaces need a tighter economic consolidation which will optimize the risks and promote the establishment of ties free from contradictions and unwholesome competition. Especially because we are interested in each other’s raw materials, technological and logistic potentials and human resources. This mutual attraction is important to our partners in ASEAN, as they are looking ahead. It is true that they are interested in Russia’s raw materials but they are even more interested in Russia’s transit, financial and technological potential, which is the nuclear and chemical industries, aircraft-building and instrument-making.”

At present we intend to continue the talks on the establishment of a free trade zone between the CU and the European Free Trade Association consisting of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. We are also holding  consultations about the establishment of such a zone with New Zealand.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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