Sergey Lavrov is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
CONTRIBUTED TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
NOVEMBER 17, 2016
This weekend, Lima will play host to a regular meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum. Leaders of 21 countries will gather to discuss pressing global and regional economic issues and chart future tasks.
The summit will take place against the background of global political and economic turbulence. The ongoing shaping of a new, polycentric world order is accompanied by growing instability. There are increasing risks posed by terrorism and extremism, regional conflicts and migration crises. "Information wars" are incited to undermine sovereign states. Some countries pursue the same nefarious purpose by resorting increasingly often to illegal unilateral trade and financial sanctions challenging the exclusive prerogative of the United Nations Security Council.
All of this has seriously hampered efforts to finally overcome the global financial crisis and get the world economy back on track toward steady and balanced growth. It has affected investment, global GDP growth and international trade.
In the Asia-Pacific, the effects of these negative tendencies have been mitigated by major technological and financial potential that has enabled the region to maintain a leading position in world affairs. However, it is evident that these challenges will have a negative impact on the prospects of long-term growth in this region, too.
As a Eurasian power and an inalienable part of the Asia-Pacific region in terms of geography, history, politics, and economy, Russia is interested in ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the entire region. Constructive involvement in its system of dynamic economic links is an objective prerequisite to fulfilment of our own tasks, particularly those of accelerated development of the Russian Far East, including our participation in regional integration processes.
We are convinced that the only possible way to create a favourable environment for sustainable progress in an increasingly interconnected world is through co-operation with obligatory regard for the political and economic interests of all countries.
In politics and security, we stand for tackling this task through collective development of a code of mutually acceptable conduct based on the principle of equal and indivisible security. Judging by the support for this approach from a growing number of partners, the need for it is on the rise.
The current situation urges us to apply this principle to social and economic development as well, all the more so if regional economies genuinely want to make it inclusive. We are pleased to note that the idea is gaining supporters in APEC, as it naturally complements the principles of consensus and voluntariness that are fundamental for the forum.
Lack of progress in the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations is undoubtedly a significant contributing factor in the current instability of the global economy. That inflicts a shift in focus from global governance to regional trade mechanisms that in certain cases involve regulation aspects that far exceed the World Trade Organization agenda. Thereby, the role of the WTO as a unique organization establishing and co-ordinating the universal rules of world trade is challenged. As a result, virtually closed areas with strict control over production chains are being created, basically for receiving maximum technological rent by a restricted number of players, which runs counter to the interests of regional and global development.
In this connection, we consider that one of the priorities of the forthcoming summit is to explicitly confirm APEC's principal position concerning the complementary role of regional trade agreements as regards the multilateral trade system. This is the only way to ensure balanced development of the global economy, and prevent its fragmentation and destabilization.
There are more than 150 bilateral and multilateral free-trade agreements today in the APEC region. A joint strategic study has been undertaken on issues related to the realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. Its participants have not yet agreed upon the optimal format and operational parameters of a FTAAP. However, they have already drawn the main conclusion that it is necessary to equally take into account the experience of all regional integration associations without exception, including the APEC economic community, the Pacific Alliance and the Eurasian Economic Union. For our part, we are convinced that only constructive interaction on a transparent and non-discriminatory basis to link these associations would avoid the risks of crisis and allow broader use of best regulatory practices.
The Russian initiative on the Greater Eurasian Partnership is primarily aimed at attaining these objectives. Its implementation is intended to harmonize the emerging Eurasian multilevel system of integration structures and to combine the potential of the interested Asian countries and, in the future, of Europe as well. This means establishing co-operative relations on a bilateral and multilateral basis in order to find effective sources of growth, looking for new opportunities for the development and promotion of common standards for regulating trade and investment and responding to major technological challenges.
We envisage an important role in the implementation of this initiative for the Eurasian Economic Union, which is steadily establishing itself as the leading mechanism of integration in Eurasia and is able to become a link between various processes and associations within the framework of the common trade and economic space.
The task of ensuring qualitative growth as a new standard for global progress is another priority on the regional agenda. Within the framework of the forum, it is solved in line with the implementation of the APEC growth strategy endorsed by the leaders in 2010. The document focuses on balanced, sustainable, inclusive, innovative and secure growth. The attention is concentrated on measures to promote equitable and comprehensive development, as well as the construction of a coherent, deeply integrated and interconnected regional community.
In this context, the improvement of transport and logistics infrastructure in the region should have an important role. Russia has a wealth of experience in ensuring reliable, continuous and cost-effective operation of global value chains and the compatibility of production and distribution networks. The geography should be taken into account as well – the shortest goods-delivery routes between Asia and Europe pass through the territory of our country.
In order to make full use of its transit capacity, Russia has been consistently pursuing the policy of national transport infrastructure development. The government is supporting major projects of upgrading the Baikal-Amur Mainline and the Trans-Siberian Railway. Development of the Far East port complex is under way. The infrastructure of Khabarovsk and Vladivostok airports is being improved with a view to turning them into major hubs of transcontinental air transportation. Active use of the Northern Sea Routemay benefit business.
At the same time, measures are being taken to technologically upgrade border and customs services to enable much accelerated passing of the relevant procedures both for cargo (including large containers) and for passengers. We attach great significance to enhancing the safety of transport infrastructure, including through the use of the Global Navigation Satellite System.
Russia advocates implementing innovations in all domains. Vigorous technological progress, particularly in information and telecommunications technology and emerging new markets, requires co-ordinated actions aimed at implementing effective structural reforms.
Russia has proposed the concept of an "electronic economy" at the forum. This refers to a new technological pattern that goes beyond the "digital economy" and the "Internet economy." We believe the time has come for APEC to develop new decisions on such issues as regulation of electronic data sets, including classified information protection measures, development of legal and administrative framework for enhancing cross-border e-commerce co-operation that would build public trust in the electronic space.
Our country also supports APEC efforts to develop human capital. We attach priority to joint efforts aimed at strengthening regional connectivity. A favourable environment for the full realization of each person's creative abilities is an indispensable precondition for successful social and economic progress.
In this context, improvement of higher and secondary technical education systems, which are key for training a highly skilled work force, is of particular importance. We propose to focus to the maximum on implementing innovations, including the use of e-education potential. Co-operation with a view to converging and in the long run unifying the education standards in the APEC region is no less significant. We are ready to collectively explore opportunities for enhancing trans-boundary mobility of students, professors and researchers. Based on our projects in this area, we are interested in sharing with our partners best practices of ensuring accessibility of education for all population groups and during the entire lifetime.
These and many other areas of interaction were agreed on at the APEC education ministerial meeting held in Lima last October and co-chaired by Peru and Russia. The APEC education strategy developed there will be presented to the leaders for endorsement.
We intend to continue the annual practice of conducting the APEC Conference on Co-operation in Higher Education at the premises of the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok. We are confident that FEFU will become one of the leading centres of international scientific and educational communication in the APEC region.
Russia is determined to deepen regional interrelationships in other aspects of the interhuman dimension as well. We fully support intensified regional, tourist, sport, youth, cultural and other exchanges, including through utilization of the transport potential of our country.
We believe that the forum's focus on the issue of micro-, small and medium-size entrepreneurship is justified. The innovation and high-tech business will in many ways shape further development of the world economy. The policy adopted by Russia to support this domain and the active use of our partners' experience for that purpose is the secret behind our country's rise up the World Bank's "ease of doing business" ranking.
As an input to the regional discussion, we propose to explore the ways of modernizing the MSME through expanding its presence in business-to-business and business-to-state markets, which means a more active involvement of this group of companies in procurements by large corporations and government contracts. These ideas are reflected in the Russian initiative on joint research into the ways of modernizing the national government procurement mechanisms, and we intend to continue promoting this initiative in APEC.
We welcome the forum's work to encourage green entrepreneurship. We consider it a major contribution to the implementation of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Russia fervently supports the efforts to develop women's involvement in business. This year, as part of the APEC Women and the Economy Forum in Lima, a "Business efficiency and success target" contest, the BEST Awards, was organized for female entrepreneurs. This initiative has undoubtedly helped promote the ideas of gender equality in the business sphere. We hope that other member economies will join.
One more priority topic is food security. We are rightly proud that, in 2012, we were the first to put an emphasis on this issue in the APEC agenda. Russia has considerable potential in this area, and we are ready to share it with our partners. Our country is steadily pursuing the path of stable development, and our agricultural sector is growing at an advanced rate – about 3.5 per cent a year. Russia is one of the leading suppliers of agricultural products in the global market, and it's our hope that the share of APEC economies in Russia's total trade in agricultural products and food will considerably increase.
It is also no doubt that our country will continue to play an important role in strengthening energy security in the region. There are major projects under way to modernize the existing deposits of hydrocarbons and develop new ones, as well as to enhance oil and gas transportation infrastructure in the Far East, including with a view to increasing energy supplies to the Asia-Pacific region. Of course, we are interested in collaborating within APEC to find solutions to such tasks as enhancing energy efficiency, diversifying energy balance and developing alternative energy sources, including safe nuclear energy.
It is extremely important that we maintain joint efforts to fight international terrorism. We fully support provisions of the relevant APEC consolidated strategy. We strongly believe that the forum, which provides various economic levers, is bound to make an important contribution to eradicating the threat of terrorism, suppressing the financing of terrorist groups and blocking the activities of extremist organizations.
Russia is convinced of the prospects for collaboration within APEC. We are firmly committed to fair and mutually beneficial co-operation and will continue to play an active role and be a reliable partner in pursuit of a region-wide constructive process, to the benefit of our peoples.