EEF in Vladivostok gives new impetus to economic ties development between Russia and Asian countries
15 September 2017. PenzaNews. The total price of official agreements signed during the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), which ended in Vladivostok on Thursday, September 7, amounted to about 2.5 trillion rubles, significantly exceeding the figures of 2016.
“Half of all the agreements signed are related to the implementation of industrial production projects. The remaining agreements concern such areas as transport, logistics, mining, agriculture, fisheries, and tourism, among others,” said Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Far Eastern Federal District, and Chairman of the EEF Organizing Committee Yuri Trutnev.
According to him, the biggest projects included the construction of the Amur Gas Processing Plant, an investment project to build oil refining and petrochemical facilities for the production of Euro-5 motor fuel and other petrochemical products as well as the construction of the Nakhodka Mineral Fertilizer Plant.
“One could say a second stage of the Far East’s development has commenced. We have learned how to attract investments and will continue to help investors implement their projects. Now we need to focus on the comprehensive socioeconomic development of the region. Our priority should be to improve the quality of life in the Far East and create the necessary infrastructure for future employees of the enterprises that are being built”, Yuri Trutnev stressed.
Speaking at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that dynamic growth and renewal of the Far East region is an essential part of “strategy to improve Russia’s competitiveness, its economy, and human capital.”
“The results are there for everyone to see: over the past three years, the increase in industrial output in the Russian Far East has outpaced the average growth rates in the Russian Federation which stand at 8.6%. The gross regional product grew by 4.2%. The dynamics remain positive this year as well. Moreover, they are improving with investment in fixed assets up almost 20% as of the end of the first six months of 2017,” the Russian leader said.
Commenting on the main results of the EEF, Nobuhide Hatasa, Professor, Nagoya University of Economics, expressed the opinion that this year the forum has become an effective platform not only for concluding major contracts, but also for discussing the current political agenda.
“Due to North Korea’s nuclear bomb testing conducted just a few days before the Third Eastern Economic Forum, this year’s forum was much paid attention by western side media to the political maneuvering among Russia, Japan, and Korea,” he told PenzaNews.
According to him, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have similar views on the situation on the Korean peninsula, but still could not achieve “political harmony.”
“Although the both leaders agreed with the growing threats of North Korea and shared common concerns on the missile and nuclear bomb testing by Kim Jong-un, they were not able to reach the same conclusion regarding how to stop these North Korea’s military provocations. While Prime Minister Abe stressed the tightening of economic sanctions against North Korea as the first priority, President Putin emphasized the importance of mutual dialogues among the concerned countries,” Nobuhide Hatasa explained.
In his opinion, the event resulted with successful economic achievements.
“Actual economic results of this year’s forum were rather marvelous compared with previous year as business people from twice more countries came to Vladivostok and much larger amount of investment contracts was made through the forum,” the analyst said.
According to him, Northern Territories [the Japanese name for the Russian Southern Kurils] problem was another important and difficult theme of the EEF in Vladivostok.
“Contrary to the mater of North Korea, Japan and Russia are fortunately having the shared ideas of how to tackle on this territorial issue. The both have already reached agreement that the first step of approaching this daunting task is “economic cooperation”. This is the reason why Abe has assiduously participated in this forum for the second consecutive year and been meeting with Putin very frequently in recent years. Thanks to these Abe’s continuous efforts, economic cooperation projects between Japan and Russia are slowly but steadily moving forward, and these are the most effective tangible outcomes that the Government of Japan as well as Japanese businessmen have gained from the forum,” the professor at Nagoya University of Economics said.
Meanwhile, Hironori Fushita, Research Fellow at Japan Institute of International Affairs, said that during the forum a number of agreements were signed, as well as a memorandum encouraging further investment cooperation with Russia.
“At the same time, the difference between Japan’s and Russia’s approaches to joint economic activity in the Far East and the Northern Territories became obvious. If Russia is interested in implementing such an ambitious project as the construction of a railway and road tunnel between Hokkaido and Sakhalin, and in the developing of infrastructure in the Kurile Islands, Japan would like to expand the presence of its private business in the markets of the Russian Federation, including the Far East, and participate in the diversification of the Russian economy as a whole,” the expert explained.
From his point of view, countries should find common ground in the region, and such an annual international forum as the EEF can play a very significant role in achieving this goal.
“The EEF is a unique event. During the economic forum, political leaders held meetings, where they discussed serious issues, for example, related to the DPRK,” the analyst added.
In turn, Grant Newsham, Senior Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo, with experience as a US Diplomat and US Marine Officer, said that he is always skeptical about these sorts of events.
“The idea of developing Russia's Far East has been around for decades. I remember it being ‘talked up’ back when Boris Yeltsin was President. Ultimately, there has to be a business case to be made for investing in Russia — and in the Far East that is a tough case to make — not least owing to geography, demographics, and infrastructure limitations,” the expert said and stressed that holding the forum is not going to remove these difficulties.
According to him, the forum that has not much of political influence demonstrated a number of foreign policy trends.
“The Japanese, for example, showed how keen they are to use the Russians to off-set Chinese influence and advances in East Asia and beyond. Shinzo Abe also still holds out hope that by getting close to Vladimir Putin he might able to cut a deal over the disputed Northern Territories. Abe will no doubt keep trying, even though his chances of success are slim,” Grant Newsham said.
Meanwhile, in his view, the fundamental issue in the Russian Far East remains the relationship between Russia and the PRC.
“Despite superficial harmony, these two countries are fundamentally at odds and leery of each other. This will never be a relationship of equals — for both economic and psychological reasons. Moreover, the Chinese have the advantage in terms of population and economic clout — and increasing military power. Russia ought to be worried that any deals it might cut with China will be stacked in the PRC's favor,” the analyst said.
Meanwhile, Lak Chansok, Researcher, Cambodia Maritime Silk Road Research Center (CMSRRC), Royal University of Phnom Penh, expressed confidence that the forum was a positive step for Russia to develop and revitalize its economic relations, especially with East Asian countries.
“The forum ended with a wide range of economic outcomes including advanced special economic zones, cultural tourism, greenhouse farming, free port of Vladivostok and economic regulation enforcement. This biggest economic forum held in Russia has demonstrated Russia’s commitment to revitalize its strong economic cooperation especially with East Asian countries through both multilateral and bilateral dialogues and discussions despite US and EU continuing sanctions on Russia. This forum serves as a discussion platform for building confidence and trust among leaders to boost trade, as well as among private enterprises to access to markets in Russia’s Far East and in Asia,” the expert said.
Moreover, according to him, the EEF can also serve as a diplomatic and political platform to address regional political and security concerns.
“Amid the growing tension in Korean Peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced the concern of US increasing presence and its counterproductive [actions] in the region to intensify North Korea’s military hysteria. Moreover, this forum is also significant for Russia to build political confidence with East Asian countries to address existing political and security challenges. For example, Russia and Japan are at another level to tackle the Kuril Islands dispute and find a peaceful solution to promote economic activities on those disputed islands,” Lak Chansok concluded.
The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok for the third time. This year it was held on September 6–7.
The EEF was attended by over 6 thousand people from more than 60 countries. The participants were not only the heads of international companies and owners of large businesses, but also high-ranking officials.
The annual forum was also attended by states’ leaders, including the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, the President of South Korea Moon Jae-in.