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Russia-ASEAN: cooperation is on the rise

April 01, 2014, 14:56 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© AP Photo/Ed Wray

MOSCOW, April 01. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia is boosting economic cooperation with Asian countries, and this fact acquires special importance in the current conditions where Western countries are threatening Moscow with sanctions. Cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plays a special part in this sphere.

A Russian business mission organized at the initiative of the Economic Development Ministry that included representatives of more than 30 companies - energy, construction and installation, pharmaceutical, transport and companies specializing in the development of high technology products, has recently returned from three ASEAN countries - Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

“We already can sum up interim results of business cooperation between Russia and ASEAN. Thus, we have reached an agreement with the ASEAN deputy director general, with the chairman of the Business Council of the association, on Russia’s participation in the implementation of their multilateral infrastructure projects - there are tens of them. And they reach in scope of hundreds of billions of dollars,” Russia's Deputy Economic Development Minister Alexei Likhachyov, who led the business mission, said in an interview with the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily.

According to him, Russians in these projects will play the role of consultants at minimum, and contractors - at maximum. The range of sectors of interaction with Asian countries is also rather wide, it is not at all limited to raw materials, on the contrary, it lies in the technology sphere - energy, construction, pharmaceuticals and the development of science intensive products, transport and agricultural equipment.

“According to preliminary estimates, Russia’s aggregate trade turnover with 10 ASEAN member states in 2013 came close to $20 billion,” Director of the ASEAN Center at MGIMO University Viktor Sumsky told ITAR-TASS. “In the scope of the thriving East Asia it’s not big at all - many times less than ASEAN’s trade with India or South Korea, let alone the United States, Japan and China. Nevertheless, it has shown a fourfold growth, compared with 2005 when the first Russia-ASEAN summit took place.”

And this is, according to the expert, already a new stage of relations, because major projects worth many billions of dollars are in the offing - the construction in Vietnam by Russia’s Rosatom agency of the first in Southeast Asia nuclear power plant with the capacity of 2000 megawatts, or the construction of a 200-kilometer long railway on the Kalimantan Island (Indonesia) on which the Russian Railways Company (RZD) is embarking.

The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, adopted in 2010, gives Russia, its companies and consultants a possibility in principle to join the implementation of such a large-scale undertaking as the design and creation of ASEAN’s gas pipeline system, Sumsky stressed. New horizons in the energy cooperation with the Association member countries are opening thanks to the completion and putting into operation of the Eastern Siberia - Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline.

And it has been decided to place on Indonesia a special stake in relations with South-East Asian countries. “Let’s begin with the most important thing - business,” Alexei Likhachyov stressed. Russia’s major companies have brought  several tens of projects to Jakarta. Their total cost is about $10 billion. The Russian deputy economic development minister quoted President of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Suryo Sulisto who noted that the visit had “opened the eyes” of many Indonesian businessmen on such cooperation.

Although not that long ago, any serious contacts between the two countries were out of the question. However, at present, according to Likhachyov, a serious breakthrough has occurred. “All the sides - the Russian and Indonesian, the authorities and businesses today have admitted that a radically different quality of cooperation is required.”

The general importance of the Asia-wide and especially ASEAN vector of Russia’s foreign economic activity in recent weeks and days has got a new confirmation, the deputy minister believes. “The thing is that the dynamics of the local markets and, most importantly, complementary nature of our economies have long been pushing us towards this region.”

ASEAN that had been founded almost 50 years ago brings together 10 countries with the total population of about 600 million and GDP worth some $3.5 trillion.

 

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