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Press review: Asia-Pacific forms world’s biggest trade bloc and what awaits US-EU ties

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, November 16th
Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh cheering after the virtual signing ceremony for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Hanoi EPA-EFE/LUONG THAI LINH
Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh cheering after the virtual signing ceremony for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Hanoi

Media: Asia-Pacific nations embark on creating world’s largest free trade zone

China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN countries have signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Its ratification will mark the creation of the world's largest free trade zone, Kommersant writes.

The document particularly reduces taxes on most goods and regulates the field of intellectual property and digital trade. At the same time, the pact does not include requirements for environmentally sound products and the protection of workers’ rights.

As a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Russia has already signed trade deals with Vietnam and Singapore, and talks are underway with India. Besides, an agreement on trade and economic cooperation has been reached with China, which, however, does not reduce tariffs.

At first sight, the RCEP deal seems to be less ambitious than the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, Russian Deputy Minister of Economic Development Vladimir Ilyichev told the newspaper. "It won’t affect our agreements with Vietnam as the EAEU-Vietnam agreement will remain in full effect. At the same time, once the RCEP comes into force, it will open up new opportunities for Russian businesses active in Vietnam as far as access to the signatory countries’ markets is concerned," the official added.

Chief Research Fellow of the Center for Asia-Pacific studies at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations at RAS Alexander Lomanov, in turn, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the agreement was "a huge success."

"China’s breakthrough is particularly notable because the RCEP deal is the first multilateral economic agreement of this magnitude that involves China. In the past, Beijing preferred to make bilateral agreements with countries," the expert explained. "In the long run, the agreement will radically change the economic balance of power in Asia and the entire world," Lomanov emphasized.


Izvestia: EU, NATO look forward to rehabilitated ties with US after Trump’s presidency

The European Union intends to boost partnership with Washington under a new White House administration. However, experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that although the United States’ tone towards Europe might change, disagreements will still be there.

A European Council source told the newspaper that the council’s President Charles Michel would hold a number of video meetings in the run-up to the EU summit scheduled for December 10-11 in order to discuss ways to rebuild trans-Atlantic ties after the US election. He plans to invite Joe Biden to one of these meetings. The goal is to enhance political dialogue, the source explained.

Many EU leaders weren’t excited about Trump because of his nationalist policy and other issues, US political analyst and Valdai Discussion Club expert Richard Weitz pointed out. According to him, those who preferred Obama to Trump would probably like Biden to be the next US president.

At the same time, Donald Trump’s presidency highlighted numerous problems in relations that existed before him and won’t go anywhere after his term is over, said Director of the Jean Monnet Centre at Italy's University of Trento Vincent Della Sala. In his view, Biden can be expected to adopt a different tone but, in a situation, where the global economic center is shifting to Asia, the US will increasingly view Europe as a trade rival rather than as a partner.

NATO is also hopeful that a Biden administration will mark the beginning of a calmer period in relations between allies. Vincent Della Sala believes that under the new president, the US will adopt a softer tone in rhetoric towards NATO but doubts about Washington’s commitment to European security will remain. The US, in turn, will be suspicious of Europe’s efforts to create an autonomous security architecture, the expert stressed.


Izvestia: Russia returns to Indian Ocean

Moscow has been granted the right to establish a naval logistics center in Sudan. In fact, it means that Russia is returning to the Indian Ocean, Izvestia points out.

Back in the 19th century, European countries dominated the region. Russia’s Navy entered the Indian Ocean much later but the situation changed after World War II. The Soviet Union was rapidly becoming a global power and some of its interests were related to the Indian Ocean. However, unlike the Atlantic and Pacific, the Indian Ocean never was a frontline of the Cold War. With few exceptions, namely conflicts between regimes supported by the Soviet Union and the US, Soviet and American ships had the same goals: ensuring freedom of navigation and fighting pirates.

The location of Russia’s new facility, which makes it possible to control the movement of ships in the Red Sea and protect Russian ships from Somali pirate attacks, as well as a relatively developed infrastructure, give reason to believe that Russia will be able to gain a foothold in the region.

"In a time of peace, such bases usually consist of a floating workshop, a rescue tug and three to four lower class ships," Russian International Affairs Council expert Ilya Kramnik noted. "However, reconnaissance and special forces will probably be crucial there. If the need arises, large vessels may be deployed there, including nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers, given that Russia has made an agreement on the entry of vessels equipped with nuclear power units. But their presence clearly won’t be permanent," the expert pointed out.

As China, India, Europe and the US seek to expand their economic influence, the emergence of another major player will provide the countries of the region with an opportunity to pursue a more flexible policy.


Kommersant: Investors regain interest in emerging markets

International investment in Russian stocks set a nine-month record last week as investors rushed to purchase the assets of developing countries in light of US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s presumptive victory and successful trials of a COVID-19 vaccine, Kommersant writes.

According to April Capital Investment Manager Dmitry Skvortsov, markets saw large-scale sales in late October but investors started to buy again after the US presidential election.

"Despite the Trump administration’s attempts to challenge the results of the vote in some states, Joe Biden continues to receive congratulations from the world’s leaders. Markets, in turn, expect trade tensions between the US and China to ease, which was one of Democrats’ election messages, and this is what impacts stock prices," Managing Partner at Amber Lion Partners Ilya Sushkov pointed out.

Investors were also encouraged by the successful trials of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Germany's BioNTech company and the American corporation Pfizer, Chief International Market Analyst at Otkritie Broker Andrei Kornilov said.

Investment inflow into Russian assets will continue through the year’s end, providing support to the stock market, Chief Strategist at BCS Global Markets Vyacheslav Smolyaninov emphasized. However, a vaccine fiasco and election developments in the US could negatively affect investment flows. Besides, according to KSP Capital UA analyst Mikhail Bespalov, Biden’s tough rhetoric towards Russia is fraught with more risks of sanctions.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Remote workers save on commuting and food

Two-thirds of those who are currently working from home are unwilling to return to offices particularly because telecommuting makes it possible for them to save money, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes, citing a poll conducted by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the Russian Government’s Financial University.

It is especially true for families with small children who now have a chance to save on babysitting, the institute’s Director Alexei Zubets told the newspaper.

Teleworking has made it clear that people can do without the office dress code and cafe get-togethers. As far as the economy is concerned, it is a negative thing but on the other hand, a drop in non-essential consumption frees up resources that people can spend on more important things, including country houses, bigger apartments and education.

According to Zubets, how much people save depends on where they live and work. For instance, pensioners have few opportunities to save because they don’t go to cafes, entertainment events and shopping malls very often. The everyday spending of those who can’t work from home, including salespersons, doctors, utility workers and law enforcement officers, hasn’t changed much.

"In Moscow and other large cities, people can save 10-15% of their family budget on commuting and eating out," Zubets stressed.

As for companies, they can reduce operational costs and provide their employees with laptops or pay for their Internet access.

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews.