- Dmitry Birichevsky maintains the idea of forming the GEP is to unite the EAEU, SCO and ASEAN.
- The Director of the Department of Economic Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation spoke about the prospects of the Russian initiative.
Dmitry Birichevsky, the Department of Economic Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, spoke in the studio of the TV BRICS and CGTN BizTalk special programme about the potential of the Chinese initiative of the same name and the concept of the Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP). The interview took place ahead of the third forum of international cooperation “One Belt, One Road”.
What is your assessment of current trends in the world economy? What is the role of the Greater Eurasian Partnership in this process?
The current state of the world economy is quite dismal. In principle, both the One Belt, One Road initiative and Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership initiative are essentially a response to the worrying trends in the global economy. In fact, such recessionary phenomena, which are disturbing, and which are a consequence of the model, some call it neo-liberal, some call it globalizational, which is essentially beginning to wear itself out. And in this sense, such a comprehensive response in the form of infrastructure projects, in the form of unifying trends of increasing trade ties and bindability in general.
Here is the Belt and Road Initiative and the Greater Eurasian Partnership, they allow linking various centers in the Greater Eurasian Continent and beyond. It is important to detach, to move away from some political moments, to build up pragmatic mutually beneficial economic cooperation on an equal basis.
And here is the flagship initiative of the GEP, the Greater Eurasian Partnership, proposed by president Putin in 2015, which is aimed at just that. And as far as the EAEU – the Eurasian Economic Union – and the development of its ties with interested partners is concerned, this is already the beginning of the realization of the inception of this great journey.
The five members of the Eurasian Economic Union are also partners of the One Belt, One Road initiative. What new opportunities do you think will open up for pairing with the Russian Greater Eurasian partnership initiative?
The idea of forming the GEP was initially aimed at connecting various regional platforms, including regional international organizations. This is the EAEU as a center of attraction, this is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and of course ASEAN. The GEP is not only open to the countries of the continent. It’s an open structure in general.
Not even a structure, but let’s say it’s a philosophy of some sort. And if our partners, our friends in Latin America and Africa share the principles of equality, mutual benefit, voluntariness, the principle of consensus, then, generally, everyone can easily join this initiative.
And the Eurasian Economic Union has the appropriate tools, opportunities, and works with those who are interested in this. There are such forms as dialogue partnerships, there are preferential and non-preferential agreements. There is even observer status. And whoever finds it convenient can work with the Eurasian Union in such a way that it is favorable to both parties.
GEP, like the Road initiative, it is not limited to the economy, it’s cultural and moral, civilizational. It doesn’t call for action against anyone, the fact that it doesn’t aim to deter others – that is its fundamental difference, and that’s its great potential. Our common future lies behind such an approach.
Recently, the issue of building truly open and inclusive payment systems has become acute. In this context, settlements in national currencies are in demand. What additional impetus could the BEP give to this process?
The key question here, of course, is on what basis to build mutual settlements, because a national financial messaging system is essentially such a serious part of national sovereignty. And every country is eager to have others join them. So a compromise has to be made here.
The BRICS, as we know, have discussed this topic quite thoroughly and at length at both the Summit and the ministerial meetings. There is an understanding that it is necessary to strive for this, to build a payment system that would be independent of the corresponding systems formed in the West.
Yes, the path is not easy and is quite long. But the very fact that work and real settlements in national currencies have already begun suggests that nothing is impossible. We are not yet talking about a single currency, yes, but about some kind of unit of account so that we are not tied to the dollar, not tied to the euro. This is already being talked about in earnest, and there are already ideas to put it into practice.
The yuan is an important currency for our business community and companies, allowing them to purchase goods and services in third countries, because the currency is quite well convertible and is used in different regions of the world. But we are talking about the fact that the Greater Eurasian Partnership is about equality and multipolarity. So to be pegged to the yuan, just as we were once pegged to the dollar or the euro, I think that in the long run is not the way to go.
For a certain time, indeed the yuan will allow us to get out of difficult situations. But the leaders spoke precisely about the formation of such independent, neutral payment systems that would allow us to interpair with our Brazilian colleagues, South African colleagues, and other new BRICS members that have emerged as of this year.
How relevant is the green agenda now?
The green agenda, the climate agenda is such a constant that runs through all issues of sustainable, socio-economic development and business contacts. Many of our companies are committed to what is known as the ESG agenda. If we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at some point temperatures will rise so high that our planet may become uninhabitable.
We need to promote elements of green finance; we need to look at the carbon footprint of the production of certain products. And most importantly, we need comparable systems of accounting, regulation, and mutual recognition. We are already doing this work with the People’s Republic of China, and we would like to introduce this work with other partners, such as India and Middle Eastern countries.
How can Russia and China combine the development plans of the Eurasian Economic Union with China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to further develop bilateral relations?
We see the Chinese Belt and Road initiative progressing, but the Eurasian Union is also developing, the terms of trade are becoming easier, there are such easements that allow for more active movement of goods, services and labour. That is, the freedoms that are necessary for the full development of business and the removal of barriers are created.
Our Russian initiative of the Greater Eurasian Partnership envisages the creation of such a continental integration circuit. We are in constant contact with our Chinese friends and we are thinking about how to link this affair, how to accumulate this affair so that we do not interfere with each other.
Last year and this year were in many ways a turning point for the world and international diplomacy, as demonstrated in particular by the outcome of the G20 summit held in New Delhi in September. Next year, Brazil assumes the presidency of the G20, it will then pass the seat to the Republic of South Africa. Thus, the BRICS countries will be the governing trio in the G20. In this context, what significance do relations between the BRICS partners take on?
The BRICS countries have shown that they can act in coordination with each other, and the G20 has shown that it can overcome contradictions. And the passing of the baton from one BRICS country to another, Brazil, I’m sure there will be continuity. We have a great rapport with our Brazilian colleagues. And it sets the tone for the whole international agenda in general.
TV BRICS International Media Network and CGTN presented a joint media project timed to coincide with the third “One Belt, One Road” Forum of International Cooperation. Experts from China, Russia and other countries shared their views on the development of cooperation within the framework of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
The programme was also attended by Vitaly Mankevich, President of The Russian-Asian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and Fabio Borges, Coordinator of the BRICS Observation Project at the Federal University for Latin American Integration (Brazil); Wang Huiyao, founder and president of Beijing-based think tank Center for China and Globalization, former counsellor at China State Council; Gao Zhikai, deputy director of the Center for China and Globalization and professor at Soochow University; and Chris Devonshire-Ellis, Publisher of Silk Road Briefing.
African Times is a partner of the International Media Network, TV BRICS.