[SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION BY PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN OF RUSSIA]Russia’s destiny linked to APEC

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[SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION BY PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN OF RUSSIA]Russia’s destiny linked to APEC

Following is the English text of an opinion article by President Vladimir Putin of Russia contributed to the JoongAng Ilbo and JoongAng Daily before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting Friday in Busan. The article has been edited for space reasons. ― Ed.

The development of the Asia-Pacific region, in the view of many experts the center of gravity of world politics and economics, is gradually shifting. One can often hear suggestions that an economic miracle is being born here, but I like a more pragmatic approach. Here we can witness the results of the work carried out by the Asia-Pacific economies. The region produces two-thirds of the global economic output and a considerable part of the world’s investments are concentrated here.
Russia’s trade with the region is growing 20 percent a year. Trade with China increases by 20-30 percent annually, and by the end of the current year is likely to reach a record $25 billion.
APEC’s desire to address regional problems collectively is of great importance, and we see a real desire and willingness in the region’s economies to learn from the experience of others. Europe has gone on its own road to solidarity and mutual support. The nations there came to understand that well-planned integration based on smoothly functioning institutions and mechanisms can ensure security and prosperity.
We realize that the development of Russia can only be successful if we participate actively in the regional integration process. Constructive involvement in these processes is our strategic choice and a most important task for the foreseeable future. Russia was guided by precisely these considerations when in 1998 it joined the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. In the regional context today, APEC is the most representative mechanism for consultations and collaborative discussions on key regional and international issues.
Together with our partners we are productively using APEC to collectively define the rules of the game in the economic playing field of the region. And what is especially important is that we rely upon principles of consensus and voluntary action that have already proven their effectiveness.
The time has come to assess the results and the possibility of timely fulfillment of the Bogor Goals, the program of establishing a free and open trade and investment regime in the region. I would emphasize here that it is the strategic objectives defined at Bogor, rather than the details, that are important. The principal point is that all the APEC economies, including Russia, have deliberately chosen the path of trade and investment liberalization and have already gone through parts of the path, different in length but equal in significance.
Let us recall that the Bogor Goals were adopted eleven years ago when APEC focused on purely economic issues. At that time, who could, for example, foresee the scale of the terrorist threat? Yet, after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, in the United States, the tasks of fighting terrorism and countering other threats firmly established themselves as priority topics on the APEC agenda. Russia regards APEC as an important instrument in strengthening the anti-terrorist front in both its regional and global dimensions. It is encouraging to see that all my colleagues in APEC share this approach.
It is logical that today the bulk of the attention is being paid to uniting efforts to stop financial support of terrorist organizations. However, to APEC‘s credit, it does not limit itself solely to this line of activity. The APEC leaders noted the need for joint steps to weaken the resource base of terror ― prevention of illicit turnover of shoulder-fired missiles and strengthening the non-proliferation regimes in the region. Active cooperation in eliminating economic underdevelopment, curbing organized crime and fighting corruption gradually reduces the fertile ground for these terrorists.
The APEC efforts to develop an inter-cultural dialogue in the region are to play a special role in this respect. A multiplicity of regional cultures and religions is a unique advantage of the region. Russia believes that APEC can bring the people that live in the diverse Pacific region closer. Our organization should initiate programs in culture, mass media and other humanitarian spheres. I think the idea promoted by the Republic of Korea, the current APEC chairman, is very timely.
Russia is interested in further interaction across the entire spectrum of our objectives, including guarantees of equal access of all economies to the advantages of globalization. I would single out a most urgent problem of preparedness for emergencies. It is important to improve cooperation in establishing efficient early warning mechanisms for such catastrophes. Russia is prepared to make its contribution; we have considerable high technology expertise relating to forecasting natural disasters, environmental monitoring, development of systems for early warning and evacuation of people and mitigating the effects of natural disasters.
APEC can be proud of its role in controlling SARS. Now the time has come to use that experience to control the avian flu. We should strike this epidemic a preventive blow, lest the avian flu becomes a human disease. Russia has extensive experience and potential in this sphere.
We take a very serious and responsible attitude to the areas of our common activities, such as energy and transport. Because of its geographic position and resource potential ― not only raw materials but also technological and intellectual ones ― Russia is prepared to play a key role in the formation of a new transport and energy architecture in the region.
Transportation of goods produced in this region through our territory proves to be much cheaper than by other trade routes. We have already accumulated practical experience in this sphere. But such projects require international cooperation within the framework of a vast region. APEC is precisely the mechanism for such cooperation.
The trans-Korean railroad, which aims at providing the delivery of goods from the South to the North of Korea, is going gradually forward but at a pace that, because of the slow progress in the Korean nuclear issue, cannot be called rapid. The existence of such a project, which makes the cost of transportation of goods between Europe and Asia significantly lower, is one of the elements of patient efforts which Russia, together with other participants in the six-party negotiations on Korea, is taking to make the Korean Peninsula a zone of peaceful cooperation and development.
Russia’s objective in APEC is to promote economic and social development of our country, in particular the regions of Siberia and the Far East. Two main and interrelated tasks are obvious in this context. The first one is to apply in our country common standards and the collective practical experience of APEC consistent with our national interests, requirements and potential. The second one is to promote, through APEC, Russian technologies, conceptual designs, methodologies, as well as specific products, technologies and equipment.
Time runs very fast. Impressions of the Santiago APEC Summit are still fresh in our memories. Very soon we will be meeting again, this time in Busan. I am confident that the Busan meeting will be a success. Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the leaders of the Republic of Korea and all our South Korean partners for their very fruitful leadership in APEC during the year.
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