The Meeting of APEC Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade Finished in Vladivostok
A two-day Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade within the framework of APEC Summit Week finished on September 6, 2012 in Vladivostok. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation S.V. Lavrov and the Minster of Economic Development of the Russian Federation A.R. Belousov co-chaired the Meeting.
During the second day of work the Ministers discussed the issues, related to development of reliable transportation and supply chains and intensive cooperation to foster innovative growth. Besides, the Ministers summarized the results of APEC work in 2012 and discussed the priority areas and goals for the next year.
Opening the discussion on establishment of reliable transportation and supply chains, А.R. Belousov noted that this issue is crucial for maintaining sustainable development and economic, energy, food, and ecological security both in Asia-Pacific region and globally.
A.R. Belousov told that this year Russia had launched a number of initiatives, related to such critical aspects as diversification of transportation and supply chains, active implementation of innovations and modern technologies, supply chain security and reliability.
It is expected that diversification of transportation and supply chain routes will help resolve the problem of inefficiency of existing supply chains in Asia-Pacific region. A more active utilization of most recent technological innovations will ensure a better connectivity and transparency of supply chains, speed and quality of delivery, as well as safety of transportation of dangerous goods.
Ministers exchanged opinions on the next steps to ensure safety and reliability of supply chains in the region. In particular, they noted the growing importance of supply chains’ readiness to withstand global climate changes. Besides, APEC economies are set the task of improved eco-friendly transportation systems developing
Considering the cooperation aimed at fostering innovative growth, the Ministers touched upon the problems of innovation policy and its interconnection with trade and investment growth, discussed the questions of human resources development and the mechanisms to increase the role of public-private partnership in the area of innovative cooperation and innovative growth of the economies.
The participants of the meeting discussed specific measures to enhance the mobility of the participants of the educational process and transition of educational cooperation in Asia-Pacific Region to the next level — the level providing for multilateral work. It was mentioned, that during Russia’s tenure as APEC Chair special priority was accorded to promotion of cooperation in the sphere of education and commercial exchange of educational services as the factors that contribute to advanced innovative growth.
Among other things, the Ministers emphasized the necessity to explore opportunities to increase the contribution of women to economic and social development of APEC economies and expansion of women’s involvement in entrepreneurial business.
Ministers also listened to reports on results of the meetings of ministers of branch departments held in 2012 and dedicated to the problems of food security, education, energy production, mining operations, environmental protection, transport, telecommunication services, tourism, small and medium enterprises, and financial sphere. The official observers, representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, also presented their reports at the meeting.
Following the results of the two-day Meeting of APEC Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade adopted a joint statement, containing a number of specific recommendations to the leaders in the area of further fostering of liberalization of trade and investments across Asia-Pacific region towards achievement of the Bogor goals.
Points of the speech delivered by Minister A.R. Belousov at the concluding press-conference following the meeting of APEC Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
Vladivostok, September 6, 2012.
It is these days’ developments that the year of the Russia’s tenure as APEC Chair is culminating in. Now we can preliminarily identify the results attained by common efforts of the 21 APEC participant economies, which fact I would like to emphasize.
A doubtlessly breakthrough result is formation of the so-called list of environmental goods. Those are goods essentially related to environmental protection, evaluation of natural risks and water and air quality control and are, basically, being segregated into a virtually duty-free trade zone. This means that the APEC economies and APEC heads in case the list is approved by the leaders, assume the obligations to reduce customs duties on such goods down to 5% by 2015. Such duties with certain economies currently amounting to 30% and more, a practically new market of commodities determining the environment quality is being opened up.
Why do I call it a breakthrough result? Because the task of such list formation was set within the framework of the WTO as long ago as 2001. During the 10 years, the WTO member countries failed to agree on the list. Meanwhile, within the year of Russia’s chairmanship, the APEC participant economies have succeeded in forming such list that currently includes 54 items.
The intensity of emotions was colossal, I would like to note. Yesterday the agreed list consisted but of 20 items. In the course of yesterday’s consultations it was extended to cover 25 items. However, having such a list submitted for consideration to the leaders would have been definitely impossible and even shameful, 25 items being too few. Within literally 24 hours, based on previous groundwork and certain readymade solutions brought to today’s venue by different economies, the meeting succeeded in conditioning the list to encompass rather a significant range of commodities (54 items).
Currently, the list has been approved of by all the economies, and I would like to emphasize the fact that the decision was taken on a consensus basis i.e. if a single economy had objected, the list would not have been adopted. To my mind, this is an outstanding result, the more so in view of protectionism strengthening in global trade (which fact has been much spoken of here) and against the backdrop of the challenging problems the WTO is facing within the framework of the Doha round.
Surely, this is not the only important result attained. At the initiative of Russia, a model chapter on transparency in free trade zone agreements has been adopted. I cannot but state that the APEC has turned into a kind of testing ground where models of new relations between economies (both bilateral and multilateral) are being elaborated. It is not by chance that many APEC economies have dozens of free trade zone agreements in effect.
By way of example: Chile has 58 agreements of the kind, Vietnam – some dozens, the both countries being virtually open economies. New variants and modes for such agreements are being elaborated there. For Russia it represents a very important experience. First, Russia is actively participating in negotiations and other stages of working over free trade zone agreements. All in all, Russia by now has received 35 proposals on formation of free trade zones with different economies inclusive of BRIC countries such as India and China. Yesterday an agreement was signed between the Eurasian Economic Commission, in the person of Andrey Alexandrovich Slepnev, and Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam on preparedness to commence negotiations on a free trade zone with Vietnam i.e. between the Customs Union and Vietnam. This, I would like to emphasize, is the domain not only of Russia but of all three countries of the Customs Union.
Importance of such transparency model chapter consists in the fact that, as part of our WTO duties, we have assumed critical obligations on publication of trade-related draft regulatory instruments, laws, governmental resolutions, ministerial and departmental decisions prior to their enactment. This provision is very important and adoption of the chapter by the APEC highlights preparedness of all APEC economies to accept such arrangements and such publication of regulatory instruments as a standard for their free trade formation activities.
Doubtlessly very important decisions were taken in the field of food security with a food security declaration adopted as an exhibit to the leaders’ declaration. This is a very important matter dealing, primarily, with ensuring access to food for all population strata and all the economies.
Gratifyingly, the APEC economies have agreed (or rather, are agreeing) on collective actions to stimulate investments in agriculture, in the infrastructure, in storage of agricultural commodities and creation of mechanisms for prompt response in case of food crises.
A matter of importance for both the Russian Federation and APEC economies is represented by issues related to formation of reliable supply chains. For our economy these decisions are critical since they open new opportunities for development of our transcontinental transport corridors such as the Northern Sea Route, the Baikal-Amur and the Trans-Siberian Mainlines. Today the APEC participant economies are coordinating measures potentially enabling utilization of our strategic geo-economic advantages.
Equally essential are a series of decisions recorded in the form of exhibits to the leaders’ declaration and dealing with development of different systems to ensure innovation growth. The APEC organization is a complex and intricate system of various interaction between the APEC economies intended to achieve various goals; in particular, as part of the innovation interaction, decisions were taken concerning development of educational potential in the APEC economies, enhancement of educational potential mobility, students mobility, and migration of students between economies. Development of educational potential (including that of the Far East) is critical from the point of view of development of Russia. The conditions required for that were also identified in the course of the Ministers’ meeting.
Information of news agencies
following the media briefing held by the Minister A.R. Belousov,
Vladivostok, September 6, 2012.
APEC Ministers to Approve the List of Environmental Goods on which custom duties will be reduced.
VLADIVOSTOK, September 6 - PRIME. The Ministers of APEC countries approved the list of 54 types of environmental goods on which custom duties will be reduced to5% or less, said the Head of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Andrey Belousov at the media briefing.
The list will be submitted to APEC leaders.
“I refer to the goods that contribute to our growth in terms of environment safety”, he said, explaining that this means environmental monitoring systems, equipment for incineration of refuse and other eco-friendly equipment.
According to Mr. Belousov, the compilation of APEC List of Environmental Goods is a breakthrough, since the goal to draft such list was formulated by the WTO back in 2001, but was not achieved. And APEC countries managed to reach an agreement and draft such a list within one year.
As he mentioned, the day before the list included 25 items, and the discussion continued for the last two hours. That is why the press conference following the results of the meeting was also delayed by two hours.
Belousov also informed that the Ministers adopted the APEC Model Chapter for Free Trade Agreements. It is expected that all APEC countries are ready to assume obligations to publish the draft regulations on foreign trade prior to their taking effect.
According to the Head of the Ministry of Economic Development, the availability of food supplies to all APEC members have become an important paragraph in the draft of APEC Leaders’ Declaration. As he said, the work was carried on in the context of information exchange between the economies, whilst the establishment of some shared emergency reserves, for instance, rice reserve, was discussed.
“This problem is critical for APEC. Around 1 million people in the world suffer from hunger, among them around 600 thousand are from the countries of Asia-Pacific region", the Minister said and added that establishment of such emergency reserves, as well as food alliances is possible in the long term prospect only, for now they have been talking about communication.
Mr. Belousov said that development of transportation corridors, including the Northern Sea Route, Baikal-Amur Mainline Railway and Trans-Siberian Railway, was an important item of the future Declaration. “Today APEC countries have agreed to take full advantages of our geopolitical position”, he explained.
The Minister added that investments into transport infrastructure are expected from private companies rather than from the governments, but, at the same time, this requires creation of the conditions favouring investing in logistics development. Besides, there are potentials for information support of freight traffic. “Here in Russia we have certain advantages due to the development of Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS)”, Mr. Belousov noted.
Ministry of Economic Development: “APEC transportation projects require development of the infrastructure bonds market”.
VLADIVOSTOK, September 6 - PRIME. The expansion of investment potentials of Russian Railways for implementation of transportation projects, discussed within APEC, is necessitated by the need to implement new tools, such as infrastructure bonds and attraction of financial resources of development institutions, according to the Head of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Andrey Belousov speaking at the media briefing following the Meeting of APEC Foreign and Trade Ministers in Vladivostok.
“The goals have been identified, the Government is working towards them now”, Mr. Belousov said and explained that the issue of infrastructure bonds, as well as the possible attraction of funds of the National Welfare Fund and Vnesheconombank to transportation and logistics projects is being discussed.
According to his words, it is necessary to create an investment infrastructure as well to attract overseas capital to infrastructure projects, including attraction of funds through assistance of the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
As the Deputy Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Andrey Klepach reported in February, the Government of the Russian Federation will finally decide on whether to issue the infrastructure bonds during 2012. The construction of railway mainlines may become one of the lines for utilization of infrastructure bonds. At the moment a concept of such mechanism is being worked on. The bonds of this type will have a maturity period of 10-15 years.
The Russian Federation to Receive 35 proposals to Enter into Free Trade Zones from Various Countries
Russky Island (Vladivostok). September 6. INTERFAX - By now the Russian Federation has received 35 proposals to enter into free trade zones with various countries, including China and India, said the Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Andrey Belousov at the briefing following the Meeting of Foreign and Trade Ministers of APEC countries, held on Thursday on Russky island (in Vladivostok).
“At the moment Russia is actively engaged in negotiations on, and goes through other various stages of drafting of, free trade agreements. By now the Russian Federation has received in total 35 proposals to enter into free trade zones with various countries, including BRICS countries, such as China and India”, he said.
The Minister also reported that an agreement between the Common Economic Space and the Ministry of Trade of Vietnam was signed on Wednesday; this agreement confirms the Vietnam’s readiness to launch negotiations on establishment the free trade zone between the Customs Union and Vietnam. “I would like to underline that the question of entering into free trade zones is no longer a sole competence of Russia, it is the prerogative of all three countries now (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. — Note by IF)", A. Belousov said.