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Eurasian Economic Union eyes free trade zone with Asia-Pacific countries — Medvedev

November 13, 2014, 11:59 UTC+3 NAYPYIDAW

Russia and Vietnam have come the closest to agreeing on a deal that will establish a free trade zone between the the Asian country and the Eurasian Economic Union

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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

© Dmitry Astakhov/TASS

NAYPYIDAW, November 13. /TASS/. The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan may establish a free trade zone with the Asia-Pacific countries, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.

“We (Eurasian Economic Union) are individually conducting talks on setting up a free trade zone, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has come the closest to agreeing on a deal,” Medvedev told journalists. Medvedev specified that Russia and Vietnam “have agreed on almost all the issues.”

“If this experience proves to be successful, Vietnam will get access to the common market of the Eurasian Economic Union, and we will be able to use this in regard to other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states,” he said.

Medvedev stressed that Russia carefully studies the initiatives on integration associations in the Asia-Pacific Region, namely China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pushed by the US. “This does not mean that we will join them, but we are looking into what will result from this,” he said.

Many analysts see ongoing negotiations on setting up the RCEP by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Six group as Beijing’s counterweight to the US-led TPP of 12 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, which is designed to exclude China.

On relations with Obama and sanctions

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday he and US President Barack Obama maintain good personal relations despite the current tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine.

“Relations have a personal side and an intergovernmental side. As for personal relations, naturally, we exchanged our best wishes and gave best regards to each other's families,” Medvedev told journalists about his meetings with Obama at the East Asia summit in Myanmar.

Medvedev and Obama had brief talks which lasted for several minutes. They also had an opportunity to speak with each other at an official dinner which Myanmar President Thein Sein gave. “This is a normal practice,” the Russian prime minister said. “In fact, I have known him for a long time,” he added. Medvedev said that “there was naturally no full-fledged discussion at such an event as a summit.”

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin briefly met with Obama on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Beijing. The leaders discussed bilateral ties and events in Ukraine, Syria and Iran. “Of course, we discuss some details, but this is probably not the format which can result in settling all the existing problems,” Medvedev said in comments to the meeting.

Medvedev noted that the United States should take the first step to improve Russian-US relations. “To overcome the current problems, it is necessary to lift sanctions, shift relations in the working field, come back to normal, calm and productive talks, then everything will stabilize,” Medvedev told reporters.

He could not say when this may happen. “This does not depend on us, because we did not impose sanctions,” he added.

In the interview with CNBC TV channel in mid-October, Medvedev said resetting Russian-US relations is impossible as long as sanctions against Russia are in effect.

Medvedev, who formerly served as Russian president, when Obama announced a “reset” in relations between Russia and the US in 2009, shortly after the US leader assumed office.

On oil prices

The Russian government will review budget parameters only if oil prices slump, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in reply to reporters’ queries after the East Asia summit. “Indeed, a strong fall in oil prices may require a review of the fiscal policy’s main parameters but this will happen only in case a strong and steady fall,” the Russian premier said.

The current level of oil prices cannot be a ground for talks to review the parameters of the country’s federal budget,” Medvedev said. “These fluctuations (currently at around $80 per barrel) are not a cause for review,” the Russian premier said.

However, if oil prices continue to fall and this fall is sharp, Russia will have to revise the budget, Medvedev said, adding this was normal practice for all countries. “We must be realists,” the Russian premier said, adding the oil price plunge during the global economic crisis of 2008-2009 was more dramatic compared with the current level.

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