Центр АСЕАН при МГИМО МИД России


К итогам конкурса эссе, посвященного 50-летию АСЕАН: Н.Ширяев

К итогам конкурса эссе, посвященного 50-летию АСЕАН: Н.Ширяев


Предлагаем вашему вниманию статью Николая Ширяева (Минэкономразвития России, e-mail: shiryaevn@gmail.com) «АСЕАН на рубеже пятидесятилетия: достижения, вызовы и новые возможности для сотрудничества с Россией», представленную на конкурс эссе, посвященному 50-летию АСЕАН. По условиям конкурса, она написана на английском языке. Эта работа признана одним из трех лучших эссе, подготовленных российскими участниками.

ASEAN at 50: Achievements, Challenges and New Opportunities for Cooperation with Russia

More than a hundred years have passed since the Russian nobleman and traveler, Konstantin Alexandrovich Vyazemsky, made his famous round-the-Asia journey reaching its destination - the city of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) - the economic center and the largest port of French Indochina. This voyage aroused public interest not only in the Russian Empire, but also in Western Europe, becoming for thousands of Europeans a true discovery of the mysterious South-East Asia.

Twentieth century spared neither the Russian Empire, nor the European colonies, nor many Asian states. The formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations 50 years ago was a timely response to the challenges: the dire necessity to fight poverty, the need for modernization and industrialization, the importance of reducing political and military risks. The success in solving these issues cannot be overlooked: today ASEAN member states are among the fastest growing economies of the world in terms of key macroeconomic indicators (annual regional GDP growth rate as of October, 2017 is 5,3%).

ASEAN stands among the most successful regional integration groups. Despite the uneven economic development and radical differences in the political systems of ASEAN member states, the fundamental principles of the organization remain impregnable: mutual respect for independence, the right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful manner, renunciation of the threat or use of force and effective cooperation*.

Today Association is facing new challenges. Following the international practices of regional integration, ASEAN has chosen the policy of deepening economic cooperation. And although the ASEAN Economic Community has been functioning since January 1, 2016, the organization is still far from creating a full-fledged common market: there are significant differences in customs administration and tax legislation, no uniform approaches to labor migration issues. This, in my opinion, is an extremely sensitive topic that will probably require certain concessions from national governments and will result in partial transfer of decision making to supranational bodies of the community. In many respects, the future of the Association depends on whether its leaders can demonstrate political flexibility and farsightedness.

In my opinion, the maturity of a person (or a nation) lies in one’s ability to see new prospects instead of a missed opportunity. The America"s refusal to engage deeper in the economic processes in Asia, on the one hand, created barriers to free trade in goods and services, but, on the other hand, prompted the states of the region to search for new markets and sources of economic stability. Vietnam, for example, chose not to put all eggs in one basket, but instead created a free trade area with the Eurasian Economic Union and has already completed negotiations on a similar project with EU. Is this not an opening possibility to strengthen cooperation between Russia and ASEAN?

The main areas of cooperation between Russia and ASEAN are spelled out in the Sochi Declaration adopted in May, 2016 on the sidelines of the summit, which marked the 20th anniversary of Russia – ASEAN Dialogue Partnership. This document will serve as a guide book for government officials, businesses community and NGOs in years to come. But words need to be transformed into actions.

While bearing in mind the importance of political and cultural collaboration the emphasis should be made on economic cooperation, particularly trade and investment.

EAEU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement is an ambitious project aimed at extension and diversification of trade in goods. Even though the discussion is still under way, it can turn out to be the growth driver we are looking for. The entry into force of FTA with Vietnam and elimination of trade barriers for producers of agricultural products allowed to increase two-way trade by more than 30% in 2017.

To bolster investment operations we should focus on areas in which Russian enterprises have expertise: mining operations, transport infrastructure, power generating industry, information and communications technologies, etc. and define priority projects for every ASEAN member state. The currently functioning Dialogue Partnership Financial Fund can become a useful tool to finance these initiatives. Investors from ASEAN might benefit from tax advantages in Russian Far East where priority development areas function.
But there is one thing that is even more important than economic development and cooperation. It’s connectivity between our peoples. We know so little about each other, we even tend to forget how similar our aspirations are. Maybe it’s high time to rediscover each other once again?


* Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) of 1976