Russia applies formally to join Apec

Moscow expects to be a member by next year ‘to benefit from grouping’s expertise’.

RUSSIA has applied formally to join the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum and expects to join the 18-member grouping by next year.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Panov said yesterday that his country would benefit from the knowledge and expertise of a forum that grouped some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

“The sooner we are in such an organisation, the better it is for our economic reform,” he told some 90 diplomats and academics at an Institute of South-east Asian Studies talk. He added that Apec membership would be of particular benefit to the Russian Far East.

Mr Panov, who is here on a two-day visit – his first to the Republic – told reporters later that he had handed a formal letter to join the forum to the Apec Secretariat’s executive director Shojiro Imanishi yesterday. The note was signed by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev.

He said that Russia expected to join Apec when the current moratorium for new membership, set at the November 1993 summit, expired next year.

Apec comprises Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hongkong, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Mr Panov, who called on Foreign Minister S.Jayakumar on Thursday, stressed that Apec countries also stood to gain from Russian membership because of its huge and enormous market. “It will be beneficial for all countries,” he said.

During a question-and-answer session at the talk, he said that Moscow was also keen to take part in the Asia-Europe summit expected to be held next year.

He told reporters that Russia hoped to upgrade its economic ties with Asean countries by being a dialogue partner. Moscow has been a guest at the annual meetings of Asean foreign ministers since 1991.

In his 30-minute talk on Russia’s New Role In The Asia-Pacific, he said that his government’s policy in the post-Cold War era was to develop a “good and mutually beneficial partnership” with Asian states.

“We do not see any country as potential enemies and will try and develop ties with all countries,” he said, adding that economic links, in particular, were crucial for Russia.

He said that Moscow had to be realistic in forging such ties because its economic presence in Asia was still not visible.

He noted that trade ties with the region were developing faster than with Europe.

Currently, Russia’s trade with Asia stood at US$25 billion (S$35.5 billion), a third of its total foreign trade. In Soviet times, it never exceeded 9 per cent.

According to the Trade Development Board here, Singapore’s total trade with Russia amounted to almost S$950 million for the first nine months last year, an increase of 38 per cent over the same period in 1993.

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