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Putin: ‘Build Bridges, Not Walls’

September 8, 2012 (TSR) – “It is important to follow fundamental principles of open markets and free trade,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin when he opened the two-day meeting of APEC Economic Leaders in Vladivostok on Saturday.

He said that Saturday’s meeting agenda items ’ were to  be dedicated to trade and investment liberalization, regional economic integration and strengthening supply chains in the region. Putin is hosting the 20th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting at the Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island, in the port city of Vladivostok.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shows the way to Chinese President Hu Jintao during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Russia’s far eastern port city Vladivostok on September 8, 2012. AFP PHOTO / POOL (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL METZEL/AFP/GettyImages)

Putin explained that these topics were especially relevant to the region’s Leaders given today’s difficult economic situation.

“The recovery of the global economy is faltering,” he said. “We can only overcome negative trends by enhancing volume of trade in goods and services, and enhancing the flow of capital.”

In August, Russia became a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organization.

“We are determined to make our contribution of drafting fair rules and mechanisms of trade together with you at the global and regional levels, including in the APEC space,” said Putin.

“The priority goal is to fight protectionism together in all its forms; traditional and new alike.”

This year, APEC members developed, through consensus and compromise, a list of environmental goods that are subject to reductions of applied tariff rates by 5 percent or less by the end of 2015.

“Implementing our arrangement to reduce tariff rates for environmental goods was not easy in accordance with the APEC summit decision made in Honolulu in 2011,” said Putin.

“What’s most important is that we’re determined to continue moving towards the formulated goals in the spirit of the traditional consensus principle of APEC.

Putin emphasized the importance of transparency in bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements and giving special attention to investment issues to improve the business environment in the region.

“Under our initiative, a model chapter on transparency was drafted to be included in FTA agreements and it makes it mandatory to disclose substantial information on such matters.”

Regional integration was also a topic of discussion given the slippage of the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

“By getting together and lifting barriers we can encourage the dynamic development of the entire Asia-Pacific region and the global economy, in general,” Putin said.

“It is important to build bridges, not walls,” he explained. “We should continue striving toward greater integration and broaden dialogue between regional and sub-regional associations.”

“APEC economies generate over 55 percent of global GDP, almost half of global trade and around 45 percent of all cumulative foreign direct investment in the world, but that is not the most important point,” Putin said.

“The most important thing is that the Asia-Pacific region, as a larger region, despite well-known complications in the global world economy, for the past 20 years, has been growing at the quickest rate, increasing financial investment, and scientific and technological potential,” he continued. “This leading role implies shared responsibility.”

Building deeper between the 21 APEC’s members was described as a centrepiece of Leaders’ forthcoming discussions.

“We believe that regional integration based on understanding and which takes into account each others’ interests, interests of partners that are geographically close to us, could play a key role in upholding the fundamental principles of an open market and free trade to ensure dynamic development of the entire global economy,” explained Putin.

“It is exactly at this moment that it’s vital to build bridges between different regions of the world,” he declared. “In that respect, I believe that one of our priority tasks is to make sure that global and regional markets remain open.”

This includes keeping a lid on protectionism. “We can use protectionist measures as tools as medicine, this would help alleviate acute symptoms but it hampers the general recovery of the global economy,” Putin asserted. “It limits trade activity and investment.”

He furthermore called for further liberalization to move closer to achieving the Bogor Goals of free and open trade across APEC economies by 2020, and for APEC members to continue to address ‘next generation’ trade issues.

“We believe that preferential trade agreements, arrangements must be as transparent as possible,” Putin said. “This would help everyone see advantages and drawbacks of effective free trade agreements and those that are yet being drafted and in the future create an optimal integration model.”

He said that other agenda items for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting include energy security, strengthening cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear power, the environment, innovation, intellectual property rights protections and the development of the Asia-Pacific region’s transportation system.

The APEC Leaders’ host also cited food security as another priority focus of their meeting. “Access to food is not merely an economic or social issue,” said Putin. “It is a matter of future for millions of people.”

He emphasized the need for APEC members to continue to engage with the private sector and other international bodies to realize shared growth objectives.

“We should set ambitious goals, we should move forward, responding to the challenges of time,” Putin confirmed. “It goes without saying, that this is the prerequisite of our joint successes,” he said.

“Our traditional theme of APEC is ‘APEC means business,’” Putin said, noting that the word ‘business’ in Russian has a dual meaning of entrepreneurship and action.

Putin said that Leaders will also talk about food security and promoting innovative growth at their retreat on Sunday in Vladivostok.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is planned to hold about 15 bilateral meetings with APEC heads of state and government, including the presidents of China and South Korea, the U.S. state secretary, and the premiers of Japan and Canada, on the sidelines of the APEC summit.

Putin will host APEC Economic Leaders here in Vladivostok on 8 – 9 September.

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