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The SCO and Prospects for the Development of Broad Eurasian Partnership

May 26, 19:52 UTC+3
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Russia's foreign policy strategy has turned clearly eastwards recently. The Government has put forward an initiative to create a large Eurasian partnership, with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and China's One Belt, One Road Initiative proposed as its platforms.

The urgent eastwards shift of Russia's foreign policy is attributable to a number of objective factors:

  • ongoing transformation of the unipolar globalisation model;
  • Russia’s need for large-scale infrastructure projects in the Far East;
  • complicated international environment, and deteriorating relationship with the West, especially the US.

To protect its economy in the context of Western sanctions, Russia is promoting cooperation with the East through:

  • participation in China's One Belt, One Road Initiative;
  • development of a large Eurasian partnership concept.

China's main focus is the development of transport corridors. Its concept of entering the EU and EAEU markets known as One Belt, One Road contemplates linking several global integration projects – the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

If the multilateral negotiations are successful, the SCO can become a platform for this Chinese project. As its participant, Russia would enjoy the following benefits:

  • higher volumes of mutual trade with China;
  • development of the national transportation infrastructure, both inland and maritime.

The idea of creating a large Eurasian partnership was first expressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2016. In May 2017, at the One Belt, One Road Forum, Vladimir Putin stated that all initiatives should be considered as part of this larger partnership.

The key purpose of the large Eurasian partnership is to develop a new pattern of life and thought in Asia based on international laws, while preserving each country’s individual development strategy and respecting national sovereignty.

To begin with, the partnership is expected to:

  • protect investment;
  • support its members’ investment cases;
  • streamline cross-border goods delivery models;
  • promote technical standards development;
  • facilitate access to open markets.

The negotiations will involve searching for solutions to mitigate potential risks:

  • There may be competing integration projects and models.
  • The EU and Southeast Asia markets are important for both Russian and Chinese economies, as well as the EAEU area. Competition with Chinese goods may have an adverse impact on the EAEU members' balance of trade. The volume of China's trade within the Silk Road perimeter is USD 1.25 trillion, and it is projected to double by 2030.
  • Potential partner states have different economy structures.
  • A large number of partners can handicap the road to mutual agreements and hinder development of an effective partnership management model.

However, despite all the anticipated challenges, the partners could benefit from guaranteed economic stability and higher domestic market capacity. The partner states would share natural resources, human capital, investments, and innovations.

 

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