Russia-ASEAN: new level of cooperation (By Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The ASEAN countries remain Russia's primary focus in South-East Asia. Driven by the desire to have partners in developing trade and strengthening security in the region, Russia established relations with ASEAN in 1991 and in 1996 became a full-fledged dialogue partner. We accessed to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia in 2004. A very important and powerful impetus was given to 20-year ASEAN-Russia cooperation after the Sochi Summit in May 2016.

The Sochi Summit emphasized the progress on economic, trade, and investment cooperation and people-to-people contacts, achieved by both parties. One of the key results of the summit was launching the initiative to strengthen interaction between the Eurasian Economic Union and the ASEAN and create a broad Eurasian Economic partnership with the participation of the EAEU, the SCO and the ASEAN countries while leaving the doors open for other interested nations. Preparations are in progress for a series of other events, including the first meeting of transport ministers, fostering cooperation in the area of logistics and transport infrastructure and the use of Russian capabilities to develop these sectors in the Southeast Asia.

Important meetings between Russia and ASEAN countries on 25 July in Vientiane, Laos, were another milestone in our relations. Russia proposed to launch a dialogue on the idea of an umbrella organization for all Asia-Pacific states without exception providing uniform rules of conduct on a non-bloc basis and the principle of equal and indivisible security, which received strong support from our Chinese partners. In the sphere of tackling terrorism and crime ASEAN and partners, including Russia, adopted a statement on promoting cooperation in the cross-border prosecution of criminals, which is a very useful document in terms of ensuring law and order at sea and on curbing the illegal use of bio-resources.

Russia cooperates with ASEAN countries in law enforcement (this year Nizhny Novgorod will host the Russian Interior Ministry's regular training sessions for representatives of law enforcement organisations in the ASEAN countries), education (the Russia-ASEAN University Forum will be held in September), in culture (performances by the Russian-ASEAN joint symphony orchestra will take place as part of the East Asian Summit in Laos in September. It may not be the most well-known event but it is a good step in developing people-to-people contacts among creative groups and NGOs). The parliamentary dimension is very important as well. A number of contacts have been planned between the heads of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and the ASEAN parliaments.

We noted the progress in cooperation between the ASEAN countries and the Eurasian Economic Union (Russia, Beiorussia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan) after Vietnam signed a Free Trade Area Agreement. Singapore, Cambodia and a number of other Southeast Asian countries have also shown an interest in pursuing this format.