Donald Trump’s unanticipated, colossal victory has shaken up all prospects of ratifying a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and this may radically change the talks on free trade in Asia, Kommersant business daily writes. At the APEC summit on November 19-20, China is expected to promote an alternative project - the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Russia’s key initiative at the summit will be suggesting that the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) should become one of the platforms for integration in the region. Director of the Russian APEC Study Center Tatyana Flegontova told Kommersant that this year, the parties hammered out a strategic study on the prospects of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). If the TPP and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) had previously been considered a keystone, this time the feeling is "we managed to show our colleagues that we will be able to participate in this zone only as the EAEU."
The TPP has more chances to be created now than the free trade zone as part of APEC. For Russia, the failure of major integration projects by the US and China could signal the need to revise its mid-term foreign trade policy. So far, the prospects of such an ambitious free trade zone are unclear as the participants are not ready yet to genuinely negotiate, Flegontova said. China suggested sealing an agreement by 2020, but the US opposed the plans. Now, Beijing is coming out against the commitments on the TPP and the RCEP in joint declarations.
There are no negotiations between Russia and China on excluding the US from talks on the free trade zone, Foreign Ministry's Ambassador-at-Large and Russia's APEC Senior Official Valery Sorokin said.
It is evident that the summit participants will be mostly worried about the prospects of the already signed agreement on the TPP, the paper says. The US President-elect vowed to withdraw from the TPP shortly after Barack Obama’s presidency ends.
The TPP’s unclear future allows China to promote the creation of a Beijing-led trade bloc as a competitor, experts told the paper. "Now China can square its shoulders by promoting the RCEP, but this agreement is unlikely to be as advanced as the TPP: its major participants are countries that protect their markets," said Alexei Portansky, Professor at Higher School of Economics.
Every December, the Russian president traditionally delivers his address to the parliament, the Federal Assembly, and gives an annual press conference attended by the Russian and Western mass media representatives. This year, the state-of-the-nation address is scheduled for December 8, while the annual press conference will be set for December 22, a source close to the government and two sources in the State Duma (the lower house of parliament) told Izvestia.
Political scientists, representatives of political parties and experts told the paper what they expect from the president’s address. Most of them said the spotlight will be focused on the country’s economic situation and the anti-crisis plan as well as cooperation between the authorities and the public.
The head of Russia’s Civic Chamber and co-chairman of the central headquarters of the All-Russia People’s Front, Alexander Brechalov, said the president is expected to focus on the further formation of civil society initiatives. The Kremlin understands the importance of working with civil initiatives and NGOs during the crisis, he said.
Business Ombudsman Boris Titov said the economy is the top priority issue. He told Izvestia that the business sector is waiting for "an answer on when a principal shift in economic policy will occur." Positive signals are just not enough as the business community is anticipating particular steps, Titov stressed.
Political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov said Putin may address the corruption issue amid the high-profile case of former Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev.
The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) is awaiting a signal on resetting ties with foreign partners: the US, Bulgaria and Moldova. The party believes the president will speak about the fight against terrorism and the operation in Syria, LDPR’s First Deputy Chairman in the State Duma, Yaroslav Nilov, said.
As a result of the sanctions, Russia lost investments of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and has decided to challenge the legality of the restrictions by putting it to a vote at the bank’s board of governors next year, RBC business daily writes. Moscow believes that the EBRD’s charter has been violated.
Russia, the EBRD’s seventh largest shareholder, has been deprived of access to the bank’s new investments due to sanctions over the past two years. In 1991, the bank said it was committed to helping former Socialist countries develop their markets. Western shareholders’ refusal to finance Russia’s new projects (the EBRD earlier invested $2 bln per year in Russia) was not legally arranged and violates the international institution’s charter, the Russian side claims. This was written in a memorandum sent in September to the representatives of all EBRD shareholders, the paper says.
A source close to the Russian management in the EBRD acknowledged that the Russians had avoided stirring up tensions until the bitter end, but after the EBRD’s board of directors once again ignored the complaints in September, Moscow set out to take serious legal action. Now, Russia plans to unveil its claims during the vote of the EBRD board of governors scheduled for May 2017 in Cyprus, the source said.
Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak, who serves as deputy governor for Russia at the EBRD, confirmed to the paper: "There are such plans."
The memorandum says that Russia’s rights were violated not only from the viewpoint of the bank’s charter documents, but from the position of international public law. In fact, this is an "internal dispute," Alexei Panich of the Herbert Smith Freehills law firm said. "As far as I understand, this does not concern international law, but rather EBRD’s internal documents."
Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the representatives of Russia’s opposition have announced a plan for Europe on warming its relations with Moscow, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes on Friday.
During the two-day Boris Nemtsov forum in the European Parliament, which was wrapped up on Thursday, representatives of Russian and European liberal parties called for resuming dialogue between Russia and the EU on an informal level.
The forum examined one key question: whether the Western sanctions against Russia have proved effective. The leader of the Pskov branch of Russia’s Yabloko party, Lev Shlosberg, stressed that the sanctions have hurt the country’s economy but there was zero political gain.
Ilya Ponomaryov, a politician and former member of the State Duma, said the Russian opposition should be preparing for patching up relations with the West. "We call to shift from sanctions against the whole country to personal anti-corruption sanctions. Besides, the EU needs to encourage ordinary Russians by increasing cultural and educational programs and simplifying the visa regime," he stressed.
The European politicians share this idea, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The European Parliament is discussing proposals not only on simplifying the visa regime with Russia, but on fully lifting visa requirements for Russians under 25 years of age. But this will be possible only after progress on the Minsk accords has been made.
The discussion on possibly lifting the sanctions or at least changing this course intensified after Donald Trump won the US presidential election, the paper recalls. "During the next year, in line with the current tradition in politics Europe will correct its policy towards Russia, looking to the stance of the new US president," an expert on the Russian-European relations Anna van Densky said.
Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev told Izvestia in an interview on Friday about the country’s harvest and the prospects for the sector amid Russia’s food embargo on Western products.
The sanctions were a true gift for Russian farmers: the sector demonstrated significant growth, while domestic goods are replacing foreign brands, the minister said.
"The farmers would be thankful if Russia’s reciprocal sanctions against Western goods remained for another five years. The closure of our market opened a window of opportunities for the Russian agriculture sector," Tkachev explained.
Russian farmers have managed to fully meet the demands of the domestic market in a number of areas and are ready to boost exports. The minister stressed that even if Western sanctions are lifted in two years, the agricultural producers won’t be severely affected as they have completely filled the gap and meet the requirements of the market.
"Once the restrictions are lifted, the Europeans will find it difficult to compete on the Russian market against domestic suppliers," the minister stated.
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