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U-Turn to the East: Why ASEAN is of Particular Interest to Russia

© Sputnik / Alexandr Kryazhev / Go to the photo bankParticipants in the plenary session, Russia–ASEAN Partnership in the New Integration Architecture of the Asia-Pacific Region: Opportunities for Businesses, held as part of the ASEAN-Russia Business Forum at the Pullman Sochi Centre Hotel
Participants in the plenary session, Russia–ASEAN Partnership in the New Integration Architecture of the Asia-Pacific Region: Opportunities for Businesses, held as part of the ASEAN-Russia Business Forum at the Pullman Sochi Centre Hotel - Sputnik International
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The declared motto of the Russia-ASEAN Summit which kicked off in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday is “Towards Strategic Partnership for the Sake of the Common Good.” Sputnik sat down with some of the participants to get to know what a strategic partnership means for some of the participating states.

“It is of vital importance that we will set the goal of advancing the Russia-ASEAN partnership to a fundamentally new strategic level," Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov said ahead of the Summit.

Let’s take a look what does it actually mean for some participating states.

© Sputnik / Valeriy Melnikov / Go to the photo bankA volunteer greets participants in the ASEAN-Russia Business Forum at Sochi International Airport
A volunteer greets participants in the ASEAN-Russia Business Forum at Sochi International Airport - Sputnik International
A volunteer greets participants in the ASEAN-Russia Business Forum at Sochi International Airport

For Russia

Asia Pacific is a priority region for Russia because of its huge potential for cooperation, Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said at a briefing in Sochi ahead of the Russia-ASEAN Summit.

Alexei Ulyukaev, Russia’s Minister of Economic Developments, further explained that Russia is interested in boosting cooperation with Southeast Asian states, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and develop mutually-profitable trade.

For this purpose, Russia and the member states are working on creating free trade zones within each particular member state and the Association on the whole.

© Host photo agency / Go to the photo bankPresident Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen
President Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen - Sputnik International
President Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen

The Minister said that an agreement has already been signed with Vietnam and there are similar agreements planned with four more countries.

He also pointed out that there are large investment opportunities across a number of interesting areas, including railroad communication (Indonesia, Thailand), energy (Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei), telecommunications, shipbuilding and aircraft engineering.

Sergei Yushin, the head of Executive Committee of National meat Association (NMA) noted that ASEAN member states make up the largest investors in Russia. Neither Europe nor the US invest at the same scale into Russia’s agriculture as ASEAN members do.

© Sputnik / Pavel Lisitsyn / Go to the photo bankDancers perform at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival
Dancers perform at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival - Sputnik International
Dancers perform at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival

Oleg Gorbulin, Member of the Board of Directors of National Investment Аlliаnсе told Sputnik that Russia is in fact turning to the South-East but it will be a long process.

Russia has long underestimated the prospects of cooperation with this region. Now it has to take into consideration the mentality of Asian countries. Unlike Europe, which is more unified, in the East business depends on personal contacts to a larger extent, and cultivating these contacts takes time.

Gilles Alfandari, Adviser at Multilateral Organizations & G20, World Bank Group told Sputnik that Russia is trading and investing in the region below its potential, except maybe for Vietnam, where it has long-standing relationship. So, this business forum is really an opportunity for Russian companies to learn about different investment plans of the ASEAN countries.

© Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov / Go to the photo bankThe welcome ceremony for Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha at Sochi International Airport. The Prime Minister has arrived in Sochi for the ASEAN-Russia Summit
The welcome ceremony for Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha at Sochi International Airport. The Prime Minister has arrived in Sochi for the ASEAN-Russia Summit - Sputnik International
The welcome ceremony for Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha at Sochi International Airport. The Prime Minister has arrived in Sochi for the ASEAN-Russia Summit

For Thailand

Kriengkrai Thiennukul, Chairman of Thai–Russian Business Council (TRBC) and Vice Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries told Sputnik that the Eastern region is a growing market and Thailand could serve as a hub for Russia and a foothold for deeper advance into the area.

© Sputnik / Pavel Lisitsyn / Go to the photo bankA dancer performs at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival
A dancer performs at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival - Sputnik International
A dancer performs at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival

In return, Thailand could get access to Russia’s satellite, electronic or information technologies and mechanical engineering expertise.
Thailand is also interested in large infrastructure projects, joint railroad projects and high speed transport cooperation.

For Vietnam

Quang Trungh Dinh, General Manager of the Import-Export Division at Vinacomin, Vietnam National Coal & Mineral Industries told Sputnik that Russia plays a very important role in business with the ASEAN countries in general and with Vietnam in particular.

© Sputnik / Pavel Lisitsyn / Go to the photo bankA dancer performs at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival
A dancer performs at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival - Sputnik International
A dancer performs at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival

“We not only produce but also import coal and most of our imports come from Russia,” he said.

It will need even more coal to meet its increasing demand in the future. So, there are ways for a strategic cooperation between Russia and other countries of the region.

Europe is currently in crisis, he noted, so there is a lot of potential for Russia in the South-East and vice versa.

© Sputnik / Pavel Lisitsyn / Go to the photo bankA dancer performs at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival
A dancer performs at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival - Sputnik International
A dancer performs at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival

For Indonesia

Indonesian Trade Attache from the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, Haryono Hadi Prasetyo, pointed out to Sputnik that Russia’s geographic position is important. He said that there is a lot of potential for Indonesia, as Russia is a very big country, half in Europe and half in Asia, and may provide access to different geographic regions.

© Sputnik / Pavel Lisitsyn / Go to the photo bankA performer at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival
A performer at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival - Sputnik International
A performer at the concert to mark the opening of the ASEAN-Russia Culture Festival
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