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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

05.09.2012

Lavrov: Russia’s 2012 APEC chairmanship detailed and effective

Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov, interviewed by RIA Novosti, discusses Russia's readiness to host the September 8-9 APEC Leaders' Meeting in Vladivostok and prospects for subsequent work at the forum.

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- Events of the APEC-2012 Leaders' Week have commenced in Vladivostok this week. What main issues does Moscow plan to include in the forum's agenda? How successful, in your opinion, was the Russian Federation's tenure as APEC chair?

- The Russian Federation considers its chairmanship of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to be a highly important aspect of the policy to involve Russia in regional integration processes and to promote fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation with APEC member economies. The main purpose of this energetic and painstaking work is to create the required external conditions for Russia's modernization and innovation development, including the socio-economic growth of Siberia and the Far East.

Certainly, the final assessment of Russia's chairmanship will be formulated after the upcoming APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting but we can already say that it has been quite detailed and effective.

We have already held more than 90 events in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Kazan and Khabarovsk, including ten APEC ministerial meetings. Our partners praised the level of their organization. Incidentally, 2012 is a record-breaking year in terms of forum events throughout its entire history.

Our work was also quite detailed in terms of its contents. In February 2012, the parties coordinated high-priority areas of cooperation, including the liberalization of trade and investment, regional economic integration, strengthening food security, creating reliable supply chains and fostering innovation growth, at Russia's suggestion. Russia submitted numerous initiatives and cooperation projects to the partners for consideration in line with each priority and other important items on the agenda. Almost 50 of our proposals were analyzed by APEC working bodies, supported at ministerial meetings and approved for subsequent implementation.

For instance, one can single out an agreement on measures to ensure maximum possible transparency of regional free trade agreements, which are being actively concluded. Russia, which is just becoming involved in this integration format, considers this to be particularly important.

Work has been invigorated within the format of APEC's Policy Partnership on Food Security. A similar mechanism in the sphere of innovations has been activated, and the APEC Innovation Technology Dialogue has also been launched.

We also consider cooperation in implementing Russia's common education space initiative to be important and promising.

Joint efforts to ensure top-quality protection for motherhood and childhood, to improve the healthcare system, to support entrepreneurship among young people and women, to promote a healthy lifestyle and to boost investment in human resources have received a substantial impulse.

We have worked with the APEC Business Advisory Council, which is headed by Russia's representatives this year, rather actively and in a well-coordinated manner. We have managed to move forward a number of useful cooperation projects based on the principles of public-private partnership.

The vast program of Russia's chairmanship will culminate in the September 2-9 APEC 2012 Leaders' Week. Meetings of APEC Senior Officials and the APEC Business Advisory Council, as well as the APEC CEO Meeting are scheduled to be held during the week. The 24th Ministerial Meeting involving foreign and trade ministers is to be held on September 5-6.

The September 8-9 APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting will become a key event. I am confident that specific agreements reached by us during Russia's tenure as APEC chair will serve as a solid foundation for a meaningful top-level discussion and will produce major practical results.

- In 1994, APEC leaders made a commitment to the common goals of free and open trade and investment for the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. What is Russia's contribution to creating this system? How feasible are these plans when experts predict the second wave of the economic crisis?

- I am convinced that my colleague Andrei Belousov, Minister of Economic Development, could give a more detailed answer to your question.

For my part, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the creation of a free and open trade and investment system in the APEC region ranks among the forum's key policy tasks. Consensus has been reached that the year 2020 is a guideline, or incentive, on the road toward liberalized trade and investment.

APEC member economies are making energetic efforts to accomplish this objective. Over 50 free trade agreements have already been enacted in the Asia-Pacific region. However, it is possible that the remaining eight years will not be enough time for these efforts to be fully successful.

Technically speaking, I see no reasons for concern. The liberalization of trade and investment is a complicated process, which requires an adequate assessment of the entire range of emerging factors. It is no coincidence that two years ago it was admitted that, as compared to the rest of the world, APEC member economies had scored impressive successes in the sphere of liberalization, although they did not create a system of free and open trade and investment activity in 2010, as had been agreed in line with previous decisions. In effect, APEC is moving confidently toward expanded regional economic integration. APEC member economies follow this main route, regardless of the worrying global economic situation.

Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization is our main contribution to liberalized trade and investment. Most regional economies are members of this highly important trade organization.

Moreover, we are actively negotiating liberalized trade relations with New Zealand and the European Free Trade Association. Consultations within the format of a joint working group to study the expediency of a free trade zone agreement between the Customs Union member countries, namely, the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and Viet Nam concluded successfully some time ago. The official talks are to be launched by the end of the year.

We proceed from the premise that liberalized trade and investment are a fundamental factor for reinstating sustainable global economic growth, and APEC may serve as a driving force in this process.




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