ST. PETERSBURG, June 21 (Itar-Tass) —— As many as 35 countries, which account for 90 percent in the global trade, would like to have free trade zone agreements with the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Andrei Slepnev, the Eurasian Economic Commission’s trade minister, said on Thursday at the Petersburg International Economic Forum.
According Slepnev, the Customs Union sees Asia Pacific countries among its top priority partners. “The key partner is the European Union,” added Viktor Khristenko, the chairman of the board of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
Belarus’ ambassador to Moscow Andrei Kobyakov shared the striving for close cooperation with the European Union but drew attention to his country’s position. “It is better to be a founder of a new economic union and take part in integration as its member that to seek membership in the European association,” he said.
According to head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin, cooperation with the European Union should comply with the formula: “olus free trade and investments, and minus the third energy package.”
He also voiced concern over Russia’s accession of the World Trade Organization (WTO). “Many companies are unable to work in conditions of the World Trade Organization,” he said. “Only big companies can afford lawyers capable of protecting their interests, so more experienced foreign partners will obviously seek to make a maximum use of their right to be present on the Russian market, while domestic companies are only learning.” In reply, Khristenko made an advice “to train personnel,” and try to solve all the problems within legal frameworks. “Next week, the first session of the Eurasian Court will consider a case, where the Eurasian Economic Commission is a defendant,” he noted.
Alejandro Jara, a WTO Deputy Director General, expressed a wish to have the Eurasian integration as part of global integration. In his words, the World Trade Organization is worried over protectionism tendencies and the talk is they arouse in Russia. In reply, Khristneko noted that it is “a domestic political discussion about Russia’s accession of the World Trade Organization, since the present-day developed democracy allows anyone to speak up.” He said he had no doubts the discussion will be fruitful and “politicians will vote” for joining the World Trade Organization.
Meanwhile, Tatiana Valovaya, the minister for integration and marcoeconomy of the Eurasian Economic Commission, formulated principles of the new global economic architecture. In her words, states “should be broken into economic teams to work out global rules of the game on behalf of regional associations.”