APEC-2012: results promising but not immediate

By Vladimir Petrovsky

The APEC meeting in Vladivostok is the first in the series of high profile international events that Russia will host in the coming years. However, unlike the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, or the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the success of the Vladivostok meeting cannot be measured instantly in gold medals or football matches won. The best we can do now is to try to assess Russia’s first chairmanship of APEC, and its impact on the country’s future economic development.

This assessment is made even more difficult by the fact that APEC is not an interna-tional organization able to enforce its own decisions and to discipline its members, but rather a regional economic regime, or a consensus-based consultation and coordination mechanism, which allows its members (economies, not states) to implement mutually agreed decisions at their own discretion. So the best the presiding APEC member can do is to shape the agenda of the annual meeting in a way that reflects both national economic interest and long-term APEC priorities.

To this extent, it appears Russia did a good job as chair by advancing such key priori-ties as trade and investment liberalization, regional economic integration, strengthen-ing food security, establishing reliable supply chains, and intensive cooperation to foster innovative growth. These four priority topics are reflected, in a thorough and detailed way, in the meeting’s final document, the Vladivostok Declaration entitled Integrate to Grow, Innovate to Prosper. Russia’s challenge was to balance continuity and novelty, as well as the traditional APEC agenda for trade liberalization and eco-nomic integration and new issues that are vital for the Russian economy.

That is why Russia highlighted ‘food security’ (agriculture production and trade) and ‘reliable supply chains’ (transportation and logistics system) as both the country’s likely competitive advantages and key spheres of foreign direct investment in Siberia and Russia’s Far East – the country’s Asia-Pacific interface. And, above all, Russia has drawn APEC’s attention to ‘innovative growth’, which the Russian economy as a whole badly needs.

The Asia-Pacific region is becoming the unquestioned leader of the global economy and international relations, and Russia wants to join the dynamic processes of regional integration, which, in turn, would help open up and develop vast Russian territories east of the Urals. These two strategic priorities are interconnected and are viewed as mutually reinforcing. The meeting in Vladivostok was a good chance to demonstrate Russia’s intention to turn to the Asia-Pacific region, and to draw the interest and re-sources of the APEC economies toward these Russia regions, rich in mineral resources and promising as logistical hubs and transportation corridors.

In general, for Russia, as a newly admitted WTO member, APEC is a good platform to discuss and to promote its agenda in the Asia-Pacific region. The creation of a common market between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan gives Russia additional room for dialogue with its Asian-Pacific partners. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, closer integration of eco-nomic models, regulation and technical standards among the EU, APEC and the Eura-sian Economic Union would allow businesses “to operate seamlessly across a vast area” – but this ambitious idea, of course, “will take time to come to fruition”.

The same goes for Russia’s strategic turn towards the Asia-Pacific region, which may take decades and will certainly take significant effort and resources on the Russian side. That is why the results of the APEC-2012 meeting will become more evident in the months and years to come. As one of the leaders of the Russian government rea-sonably noted, foreign direct investment in Siberia and the Russian Far East will show whether the Vladivostok meeting was a success. Although Russia’s tenure as APEC chair will expire at the end of 2012, Russia suggested convening a follow-up senior ministerial meeting in six months to assess the results.


Vladimir Petrovsky, PhD, is RIA Novosti Deputy Chief Representative in China, Bei-jing Office.


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