MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) – Representatives of the Russian-led Customs Union are in talks over creation of a free trade zone with New Zealand and some non-EU European nations, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.
“Talks on creation of a free trade zone between the Customs Union and Vietnam are already started… at around the same time as Vietnam, talks are underway on creation of a free trade zone between the Customs Union and New Zealand, and also between the Union and the European Free Trade Association that includes those western European nations (in particular Switzerland and Norway) that are not EU members,” Lavrov said in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV.
Moscow is also hoping that if talks with Vietnam are successful, they could serve as a template for similar negotiations for a free trade zone between the ASEAN group of Asian nations and the EU, he said.
Lavrov’s comments come as Russia and the EU are locked in a struggle to secure a free trade agreement with Ukraine. Kiev turned its back on a widely expected association deal last month, saying it would harm economic relations with Russia, prompting mass demonstrations by pro-EU protesters and throwing the country into a political crisis.
Both the EU and Moscow have accused the other of using strong-arm tactics to secure economic ties with Kiev.