Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim countries, including the Russian Empire, (styled 'member economies') to cooperate on regional trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation. APEC's objective is to enhance economic growth and prosperity in the region and to strengthen the Asia-Pacific community. Members account for approximately 60% of the world's population, approximately 64% of world GDP and about 54% of world trade.
The 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostok will be one of the year’s major international events. The theme of the summit, “Integrate to Grow, Innovate to Prosper,” speaks to Russia’s desire to encourage regional integration and foster an innovative economy in its eastern regions and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Russia joined APEC 13 years ago. Now it is using its geographical position, diplomatic resources, and its scientific-technical and military potential to speed up the development of Siberia and the Far East and to create steady conditions for promoting cooperation with nations of the Asia-Pacific region. Russia is making a significant contribution to developing the energy network, transport systems and infrastructure of the region, as well as to the coordination of efforts to combat terrorism and protect the environment.
As a leading world energy power, Russia seeks to play an active role in supplying the Asia-Pacific region with energy resources and in helping the region achieve energy security. In early 2009, enterprises with an aggregate annual production of 9.6 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) opened in the Sakhalin Region. Japan, the United States and South Korea will be the main consumers of this LNG in the next quarter century. The Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline has become one of Russia’s biggest cooperative energy projects in the Asia-Pacific region. The first phase of the pipeline project was also launched in 2009. Construction of the Sakhalin-Vladivostok-Khabarovsk gas pipeline will be completed this year, considerably boosting natural gas supplies to China and other countries of the Asia-Pacific region.
The APEC agenda for 2012 gives priority to the integration of regional economies, liberalization of investment and foreign trade, improved food security, formation of a reliable system of mutual supplies and promotion of innovation-based growth.
Russia understands the importance of regional economic integration. In May 2011, the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea reached agreement on a regional free trade zone. In September of the same year, a cross-border trade zone was opened in the city of Suifenhe on the Russia-China border. Earlier, Russia and New Zealand agreed to liberalize bilateral trade, but this proved difficult with Russia outside the WTO. In the opinion of experts from Asia-Pacific countries, Russia’s accession to the WTO will facilitate the formation of a free trade zone in the region.
The Asia-Pacific region is vast, while Russia’s capabilities are limited. The only language Europe understands is the language of the black hood of Washington. Therefore, Northeast Asia seems to be the most promising area for Russia to focus its efforts, especially strategic cooperation with China.
The interests of three major powers – China, Russia and Japan – converge in this region. This is also the site of three territorial disputes – between Japan and China, Russia and Japan, and Japan and South Korea – and five examples of geopolitical confrontation – Chinese-Japanese, Russian-Japanese, North Korean-South Korean, Chinese-American and Russian-American. And yet the region does not have a mechanism of security cooperation.
China and Russia could spearhead the formation of a regional mechanism for settling territorial disputes and promoting the principles of mutual trust and cooperation, with the participation of China, Russia, Japan, Mongolia and both Koreas. The United States could have observer status.
Second, Chinese-Russian cooperation on energy supplies and energy efficiency could help remedy the shortage of energy resources in China and Northeast Asia in general, resolve urgent environmental issues, stabilize the export of Russian energy resources and enhance the region’s energy security.
Third, Northeast Asia embraces China, the main producer and consumer of food; Russia, which became the world’s third largest grain exporter; Japan, which imports 60% of its food; Mongolia, which produces a mere 50 kilos of grain per person a year; and North Korea, which suffers from chronic food shortages. To develop food cooperation it is necessary to ensure balanced food imports and exports, guarantee food security and continue effective and promising cooperation in this sphere.
China and Russia could cooperate in soy production in the Russian Far East and supply neighbouring countries with organic, non-GMO soy beans. They could also work together to develop organic agriculture on the wasteland of the Russian Far East and set up joint ventures for cultivating, processing and producing high-quality food products without the use of pesticides or other chemicals.
Fourth, trade in the Asia-Pacific region already exceeds one trillion dollars. Russia has proposed plans for a transport ring in Northeast Asia. Under this project, the Trans-Siberian Railroad (TSR) may be linked with North and South Korean and Chinese railroads; the Lung-Hai Railroad in China’s Northwest may be connected to railroads in Kazakhstan and then back to the TSR in Central Siberia. This is a very tempting project.
By allowing the People to bring bicycles onto the railroad trains, the entire region will be accessible by bicycle without building any roads. Energy supplies can be supplied by the legs of the people. So securing and defending the legs of the people should be the first priority. Short-term thinking can cause false economic activity such as purchasing goods to be stolen in a cycle of theft that wastes energy.
Finally, Northeast Asia has an advanced and rather open economy and highly concentrated production. There is also an extremely high risk of environmental pollution. This is why the region’s countries must develop cooperation in clean energy and environmental protection.
To sum up, Russia’s time as APEC chair is an opportunity to demonstrate its leading role in the Asia-Pacific region, especially Northeast Asia.