Russia calls on India to join trade bloc
Ahead of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to India this month, Moscow is pushing for India to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) to open up Central Asian opportunities.
The EAEU has five members – Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia – with 180 million people and nearly US$5 trillion in combined GDP.
The bloc’s members have agreed strategic goals to develop Eurasian integration until 2025, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The EAEU already has free-trade agreements with China, Iran, Vietnam, Serbia, Tajikistan, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Ukraine.
They also agreed to endorse an EAEU financial common market launch in 2025, the ministry added.
“The EAEU countries improved the structure of import and export transactions and increased the use of national currencies in their mutual transactions,” the ministry told the media.
“The EAEU expanded its range of foreign partners by signing free-trade agreements with Serbia and Singapore. It is implementing a programme of cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and Asean in 2019-20. A decision to hold talks on drafting a preferential EAEU trade agreement with India was made,” it said.
During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vladivostok last September, it was agreed to boost India’s ties with Russia, Central Asia, Africa and Southeast Asia.
“The Russian initiative of forming Greater Eurasian Partnership has become established as a concept of long-term political and diplomatic efforts,” the Foreign Ministry added.
Iran says it has exported US$180 million worth of commodities to the EAEU under preferential tariffs since October 27, when a trade deal took effect.
Iran’s energy minister, Reza Ardakanian, said: “The EAEU’s exports to Iran under the preferential trade agreement stood at US$250 million during the same period. Imports mainly comprised of essential goods.”
Ardakanian said less than 23 per cent of Iranian exports to the EAEU and around 86 per cent of imports from the economic bloc to Iran were covered by the trade deal.
“This is a very big gap. We need to reach a balance here with proper planning,” he said.
“Russia imports around US$250 billion per year and given our favourable bilateral ties, we need to aim for this strong market.”
In 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Now we propose considering the prospects for a more extensive Eurasian partnership involving the EAEU and countries with which we already have a close partnership – China, India, Pakistan and Iran – and certainly our CIS partners.”
India’s giant market is attractive to Moscow. Picture credit: Eurasia Times