_Vladimir Petrovsky, PhD, Political Science, Researcher, Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences6 February 2018.
In October 2017, the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China jointly announced the completion of negotiations on the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation. The parties said that they would carry out legal and technical editing of the agreement text as early as possible, after which they will start implementing the necessary internal procedures for signing the document. In November 2017, the delegations of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the People’s Republic of China also agreed on a draft Agreement on goods and vehicles to be transported across the customs borders between the EAEU and PRC.
This is the culmination of an active negotiation process aimed to promote integration between the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road project. The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) is in negotiations with China about co-financing of almost 40 projects in the field of transport and infrastructure in the framework of the Eurasian confluence with the Belt and Road project.
Several or all countries of the Eurasian Economic Union participate in these projects. 11 projects are initiated by Russia. 39 of them concern construction of new and modernization of existing roads, creation of transport and logistics centres, development of key transport hubs. Among them are the construction of the Eurasia high-speed highway, Arkhangelsk deep-water port in and the Belkomur railroad.
In 2017, the EEC has worked out a list of priority projects to be implemented by the EAEU countries, which will support the formation of the Belt and Road project. In particular, the implementation of a large-scale project for the construction of new roads in the framework of the international Western Europe-Western China transport route with the length of 8,445 km is nearing completion. Moreover, a high-speed Moscow-Kazan railway should be built with trains running at a speed of up to 400 km per hour. The time from Moscow to Kazan will be 3.5 hours. Currently, the mechanisms to attract Chinese investments in this project are being worked out.
During the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow in May 2015, the parties signed the Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and People’s Republic of China on Cooperation in Harmonization of the Eurasian Economic Union and Silk and Road initiative. Among the priority directions of the coordinated efforts is “the creation of mechanisms to simplify trade in those areas, where the conditions have matured, the development of joint steps to harmonize and ensure the interoperability of rules and regulations, trade-economic and other policies in the spheres of mutual interests; consideration of the long-term goal to promote the free trade zone between the EAEU and China.”
For Russia, the main problem of confluence between the Eurasian integration and the Belt and Road initiative is that it seeks to discuss it not in connection with Russia’s role alone, but by providing integration of the Initiative with the processes of Eurasian integration. It is not only a Russian connection to the Chinese project.
During the visit of Vladimir Putin to Beijing on May 25, 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China on coordination of joint efforts in the framework of international organizations and associations, which reflected the desire of the parties to accelerate the practical process of the Eurasian integration with the Belt and Road project, including the launch of negotiations on an agreement on trade and economic cooperation between the EAEU and China.
The parties’ positions became even closer after the Belt and Road large-scale international economic forum held in Beijing in May 2017. It gathered heads of states and governments, representatives of more than 100 countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin as the main guest of honour. The forum was attended by heads of a number of international organizations, including the UN, IMF, the World Bank and WTO. The Russian delegation at the forum exceeded 400 people, including six heads of relevant ministries and departments of the Government of the Russian Federation. They held detailed negotiations on Russia’s further participation in the process of integration with the Belt and Road Initiative.
The early signing of the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation between the EEC and China will be the first tangible result of the confluence process and will guarantee further favourable prospects.