SOCHI (Russia): The recently concluded Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit here has been historical and significant, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
South-East Asian nations have reached a consensus here to seriously look into establishing a free trade deal with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), of which Russia is a party to.
In an interview with RT, a Russian English news channel, Najib said the summit was significant because it gave the opportunity “to look at what we have accomplished and to look forward” after 20 years of Asean-Russia relations.
“The most important item is the consensus among Asean that we need to seriously look at establishing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EAEU,” he said.
Apart from Russia, the EAEU trade bloc unites Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Russia has been a dialogue partner of Asean since July 1996.
Besides Malaysia, the other Asean members are Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Najib said other Asean countries had submitted a request to establish ties with EAEU.
“We have to decide if we should go on a multi-lateral or bilateral basis but whatever it is, importantly, the outcome should be the desire for us to achieve eventual economic integration,” he said.
Besides economic integration, Najib stressed the importance of working with Russia in the areas of security, politics and culture.
When asked if the economic integration would be similar to that of the European Union, Najib said it would be more like the FTA.
It would entail tariff reductions, movement of goods or services and there would not be any political and sovereign issues, said Najib.
Asean and EAEU member countries have an estimated combined Gross Domestic Product of US$3.5tril (RM14.27tril) and a combined population of over 700 million.
“It’s a huge market with enormous potential,” Najib pointed out.
On the effectiveness of economic sanctions, he said: “I don’t think they are that effective.
“The most important thing is to engage in the process of consultation, negotiation and to avoid contemplating sanctions because I think it will hurt more people than you intended.” — Bernama