Eyes on the South-East: why Putin will come the heads of 10 Asian countries


On Wednesday in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin will conduct bilateral meetings with the leaders of the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), who will arrive there to participate in the summit Russia — ASEAN on may 19-20. Such summits were not held for six years, and there were two in 2005 and 2010. Dialogue with ASEAN Russia established in 1991, and the status of dialogue partner received in 1996. The same status there are still nine countries, including USA and Canada.

Fragmented cooperation

ASEAN, established in 1967, comprises ten countries: Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

The authorities indicate great potential for cooperation. The ASEAN countries have a population of 630 million people and their combined GDP of $2.57 trillion in 2014, led the figures to journalists at the briefing, the Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov.

Cooperation is fragmentary-sporadic, admits in an interview with the Executive Director of the business Council Russia — ASEAN Viktor Tarusin. He points to a positive example of cooperation with Vietnam, which on a regular basis developing since Soviet times, and mainly rests on an energy basis. “But even projects with Vietnam — it’s only $4 billion, which is very small compared to other partners of Vietnam,” Tarusin said. At the forefront of cooperation, it also indicates Thailand, which invests in agriculture in the Krasnodar region, but Russia’s economic presence in Thailand is limited to the Russians, leading business.

Due to the low base in the last decade, the growth rates of trade between ASEAN — Russia look impressive: in the period from 2005 to 2014, the trade turnover increased more than five times, but even after such growth in 2014 (the last year before the sharp drop in Russia’s foreign trade Russia’s trade with the countries of South-East Asia amounted to only $21.4 billion, which made Russia’s 14th trading partner, tens of ASEAN, cites the review for the Moscow Carnegie Center expert Anton Colors.

In foreign trade, ASEAN, Russia accounted for less than 1% of the total ASEAN trade in Russian is 2.7 percent. In the structure of Russian exports were dominated by mineral resources (60%), machinery and equipment (14.5 per cent) and chemicals (13.8 per cent). In General, by remark Tsvetova, in Russian “pivot to the East” Southeast Asia pales into insignificance compared to the relations with China.

Increased economic activity due Business forum, which will be held in Sochi on may 19. It will be attended by about 350 delegates, about half were from Russia. Among the participants, according to Tarusina, the captains of Russian business: Chairman of the Supervisory Board of “Basic element” Oleg Deripaska, Chairman of the Board of Directors of JSC “Severstal” Alexey Mordashov, the representatives of the state Corporation “Rosatom” Sergey Kiriyenko, the Chairman of the Board “Gazprom” Alexey Miller and the President of “Rosneft” Igor Sechin. May 20 leaders will meet with representatives of the business community.

ASEAN plus EAEC

Assistant to the President Ushakov at a briefing focused on Russia’s intention to discuss at the summit the possibility of coupling of different integration processes involving Russia, and ASEAN. It will be discussed on may 20 at a working Breakfast. In conversation participate not only Putin and the ASEAN leaders, but also representatives of the Eurasian economic Commission. In the center of the conversation, according to Ushakov, will be developing a broad TRANS-regional partnerships of ASEAN with the connection of the Eurasian economic Union, SCO and leveraging the potential of the Chinese project “Economic belt silk road”.

This was stated by President Putin in the message to the Federal Assembly in December last year. The partnership at the initial stage, he said, would focus on the issues of investment protection, streamlining procedures for the movement of goods across borders, on the reciprocal opening of market access services and capital.

For Russia, Putin said, this partnership will create new opportunities to increase supplies to the Asia-Pacific region, food, energy resources, engineering, educational, medical and tourist services, will play a leading role in the formation of new technological markets, and to expand on Russia, a major global trade flows.

The initiative of Russia to involve in cooperation of the Eurasian economic Union with ASEAN is positive for Belarus, specifies the Belarusian expert Yury Shautsou. According to him, Minsk is trying to build its relations with the region, ASEAN was declared the Ministry of foreign Affairs priority, but Belarus is a small country and there are not enough specialists.

“There is a stereotype that we were all waiting for, but the markets of Southeast Asia are highly competitive, any initiative in this direction it is necessary to reinforce a serious investment,” — said the Tarusin. China, he recalls, creates special investment funds and Chinese businessmen have priority.

Cash trade with ASEAN is extremely low, so you can rely on a quick positive effect is difficult, says Vladimir Mazyrin, Director of the Center for the study of Vietnam and ASEAN Institute for Far Eastern studies. According to experts, the development of cooperation in the broad frame of the EEU, the SCO, ASEAN and China are excluded, the more real it looks the development of relations in the format of Eurasian economic Union — economic community of ASEAN.

Experts also point to political obstacles for Russia in the region, whose stability is threatened by territorial disputes in the South China sea involving China.