French business supports dialogue between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union

_ Yuri Kofner, research assistant, IIASA. Vienna, 3 July 2018.

The French Republic as the largest economy of the European Union can act as an engine for improving relations and launching cooperation between the EU and the EAEU in the format of a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

These are the results of the meeting of representatives of the French business community with Tatyana Valovaya, Minister for Integration and Macroeconomics, Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), which was held on June 29, 2018 in Paris at the headquarters of the Movement of Enterprises of France (MEDEF), the largest business association of the country.

In her report, Tatyana Valovaya spoke about the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the opportunities and challenges facing Eurasian integration, plans for the near future, the development of the Union’s common domestic markets and the creation of a network of free trade agreements in the “Greater Eurasian” space.

The commitment to integrate the economies of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia resulted in the creation of a customs union between the three states in 2010. In order to strengthen this Eurasian bloc, the countries of the Customs Union agreed to create the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in Astana in 2014, which came into force in January 2015, joined by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. The EAEU also has an official candidate (Tajikistan) and an observer member (Moldova). Representing a market of 180 million consumers and 3.2% of global GDP (PPP), the EAEU is an attractive economic area that tends to harmonize to facilitate foreign directs investments and trade within the region .

The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), the permanent regulating body of the Eurasian Economic Union, has had some success in preparing Member States for the harmonization of texts and regulations. It has also worked on drafting a single customs code, which entered into force in January 2018. The Commission is currently working on the implementation of sectoral common markets, such as for the harmaceutical industry (2016), a common electricity market (2019), a common transport market (2020), common oil and gas markets (2025), a common financial market (2025), as well as harmonized policies in various sectors, such as agriculture, monetary and protection of intellectual property.

The EEC Minister stressed that the experience of the European Union was used as the foundations integration construction of the Eurasian Economic Union. “Based on the European experience, we have the opportunity not to repeat the mistakes our European colleagues had to make. In particular, we avaoid a too rapid expansion of the Union and an overemphasis of the political component in economic integration. This is what we are trying to avoid at the EAEU, “she said.

Otherwise, the Eurasian Economic and European Union is very similar, and given the fact that these are two large neighbors and major trading partners, which have a very complementary commodity structure, there is no alternative to equal dialogue and cooperation. This opinion was shared by all participants of the discussion, among whom were representatives of the management of such major French companies as Alstom and Total.

Tatyana Valova answered questions from representatives of the business circles. All of them concerned different aspects of the activities of the companies of France in the common domestic markets of the EAEU member states, the possibilities for developing investment cooperation and joint implementation of large infrastructure projects. “A significant part of the questions, one way or another, concern artificial barriers that are created today in our trade with the European Union. I am sure that we could solve half of the existing problems and restrictions already at the present time through joint discussions. This could be done on the basis of a dialogue platform between the EEC and the European Commission”, concluded Dr. Valovaya.

The Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), for example, has already been a unique platform where high-level officials and experts from the European Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) could meet and discuss challenges and opportunities of establishing closer economic relations and an eventual creation of a “common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok”.

IIASA’s research project “Challenges and Opportunities of Economic Integration within a Wider European and Eurasian Space” (InEurasia) focuses the potentials and conditions for the creation of a common economic space between the European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

The representatives of the French business community thanked the minister for her openness, constructiveness and the opportunity to conduct such a high-level discussion. The French business expressed its solidary opinion that the French Republic as the largest economy of the European Union can act as an engine for improving relations and starting cooperation in the EU-EAEU format.

Representatives of the diplomatic missions of the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation in France also took part in the meeting.

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