Vladivostok, located in Russia’s Far East, hosted the 8th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), on 12th to 13th September 2023, in an attempt to define further the development of this remote region. Since the beginning of the EEF in 2015, it has, until the Covid-19 that was followed by Russia’s own ‘special military operation’ in neighbouring Ukraine, the focus was largely on harnessing resources from the United States and Europe to the Far East region of the Russian Federation.
Speeches and all kinds of remarks highly parised Western, European and Asia-Pacific participating countries and corporate enterprises, under resonating themes such as ‘A Common Economic Space from the Atlantic to the Pacific: The Greater Eurasian Partnership which was framed to develop trade and economic cooperation from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Research shows that the EEF held previously, especially the first three in 2015 to 2018, strategically aimed at broadening international cooperation, and promoting Far East as the gateway to the Asian-Pacific region.
Despite the series of sanctions, corporate European businesses are still highly interested in Russia and Russia recognizes the enormous significance and invaluable contributions of these businesses in its economy. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, during those hay years, had always been the guest speaker during the Association of European Business (AEB), an organization which unites European companies in the Russian Federation.
“We value opportunities for dialogue with European entrepreneurs aimed at pushing forward a pragmatic, politics-free and mutually beneficial agenda designed to improve the wellbeing of the people in Russia,” Lavrov said, and rained a lot of praises when the AEB marked its 25th year early October 2020. The interest in strengthening and diversifying trade and economic ties had grown since Soviet collapse. According to statistics, the European Union investment in Russia reached almost US$300 billion back in 2019.
Russia is ready to build its relations with the European Union along some principles. The European Union remains as its important trade partner. As before, there is optimism that both are open to cooperation, European partners are keen on building businesses in the economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok, this vast country and in the Eurasian region.
Obviously, the future Russia and European business relations could still be consolidated despite the current political differences. After all, Russia and the EU countries not only belong to the same cultural and civilizational matrix, but are also linked by many ties in trade and investment cooperation, scientific and technological exchange and personal contacts. Russians spend their vacation in Europe. There are visible signs that Europeans are interested in Far East development projects and participating in diverse spheres in cooperating in the economy there.
Even long before Covid-19, Russia continued working on attracting investment to the Far East from external countrues and enterprises. Outcomes of 2019 forum (that was the 5th forum) released by the forum organizers, for instance, showed that among the 65 countries represented were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States.
The 2019 forum business dialogues included Russia-Europe among the six for that year. And one of the expert business lectures was United Kingdom on economics and international relations. The session was moderated Sergei Brilev, Russia TV Channel Anchor and Deputy Director and President of the Bering Bellingshausen Institute for the Americas. And there at the session, Vladimir Putin acknowledged hosting over 8,500 participants from 65 countries. Since the first forum, representation had increased more than twofold, a convincing indication of growing colossal interest in opportunities offered by the Russian Far East.
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe: “I want you to spread the wings of imagination and see the new opportunities Japan can bring into your future. Let us create history together, let us pave the way.”
Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Bin Mohamad: “It was great to hear that of all regions, Russia is going to develop the Far East. Russia is one of the few countries that is located both in Europe and in Asia. Its unique geographical location makes it a bridge between East and West, between Europe and Asia. I suppose this unique situation will help Russia play an in important role in both Europe and the Far East.”
“We are still going to aim high. At the same time, if prior to the first EEF five years ago you would have asked me to guess the future – I don’t think I would have said 1800 projects. Perhaps, I would have been ambitious enough to guess 300, and I would have thought that daring. 1800 projects launched in the Far East — it is simply amazing. I am confident: the preferential economic policy, initiated at the behest of the President of the Russian Federation works,” said Yuri Trutnev, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District.
“The 5th anniversary Eastern Economic Forum was record-breaking in terms of participation numbers and the total worth of contracts signed during the event. These accomplishments prove that the Forum became a significant platform to promote international cooperation and discuss relevant global and regional economic issues, said Anton Kobyakov, Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation, Executive Secretary of the Eastern Economic Forum Organizing Committee.
Over the past few years, there are brief analytical summaries show an increasing trade relations between Russia and China. In particular, and from geopolitical point of view, China is moving towards attaining its global status within the evolutionary processes of multipolarity. China is building on its potential facilities to penetrate through the Far East to central Asia and former Soviet republics.
That however, with the complexities and contradictions of the geopolitical situation, Russia has abandoned its initial post-Soviet Western and European dreams. United States, Europe and the Baltics were all deleted from Russia’s radar. Russia is partitioning rather than pursuing an integrative multipolar world. At least, these are very visible within the framework of its foreign policy.
Outcomes of the 4th EEF (September 2018) held under the theme ‘The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities’ was significantly not different. It featured the President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea Lee Nak-yon.
President of the Peoples Republic of China Xi Jinping emphasized: “The Eastern Economic Forum, established by the initiative of President Putin, has already been successfully held three times and has become an important platform for consolidating brainpower and discussing key cooperation-related matters. This year the Forum is attended by an unprecedented number of guests and friends from different countries.”
President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga said: “The Annual Eastern Economic Forum is becoming an important discussion platform for outlining further ways of cooperation for the APR countries. Each year the level of participants is rising, and the Forum is expanding.”
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe: “Russian—Japanese relations are now going through a breakthrough period with unprecedented acceleration. The plan of bilateral cooperation that we discussed with President Putin includes over 150 projects. Over a half of them are already being implemented or are approaching this stage.”
Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea Lee Nak-yeon said: “Leaders of the Northeast Asian states have gathered at this platform to consolidate efforts and ideas for the development of the Far East and ensure peace and well-being for the region. This is crucial.”
Over 340 heads of foreign businesses took part in the forum. There were 6,002 delegates and 220 agreements worth 3.108 billion roubles were signed (only agreements, the value of which does not constitute a commercial secret). The most significant agreements were:
● Baimskaya Mining Company, KAZ Minerals PLC, Government of Chukotka Autonomous Area and the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia signed an agreement in the amount of 360 billion roubles on the implementation of the investment project to develop the Baimskaya ore zone (Chukotka Autonomous Area);
● United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and Aeroflot signed an agreement in the amount of 210 billion roubles on the consignment of Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircrafts;
● Nakhodka Fertilizer Plant and Far East Development Corporation signed an agreement to create a clean methanol and ammonia production facility;
● NOVATEK, Government of Kamchatka Territory and Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East signed an agreement in the amount of 69.5 billion roubles on the construction of a terminal for transshipment and storage of liquefied natural gas;
● Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Japanese conglomerate Marubeni Corporation and AEON corporation signed an agreement on the terms for financing the construction of a chemical cluster in Volgograd;