Russia’s increasingly important good relations in South East Asia are not limited to its traditional Vietnamese ally nor its burgeoning relationship with Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte. Russia’s trade partnerships in the region increasingly include Indonesia, a country with enormous economic potential and a country that is set to be on the south-eastern tip of China’s One Belt–One Road.
“Russia supports Indonesia’s initiative to enter negotiations on the establishment of a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday.
“Indonesia shows interest in starting negotiations on creating a free trade zone with this union [EAEU]. The relevant proposal has been introduced and is now being considered. Russia backs it,” Lavrov said in the follow-up to the negotiations with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.
Lavrov also discussed with Marsuri the idea of extending EAEU contacts by engaging the union in events conducted by Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member states.
On Friday, a Russian ministry’s source told Sputnik that in May, Indonesia offered to establish a group dedicated to examining the feasibility of a free trade deal.
In January 2016, Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said Indonesia and the EAEU could enter talks on introducing a free trade zone, but also mentioned that the issue required a detailed, joint examination with EAEU member states.
The Eurasian Economic Union is a Russia-led bloc, comprising Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia, and aimed at developing intraregional economic ties and establishing the free flow of goods among its members”.
The increasing integration of the Eurasian Economic Union with China’s One Belt–One Road is a priority for Moscow. The potential of opening up the EAEU to Indonesia would be a crucial step in this direction as well as a sign that Russia’s increasingly diverse economic interests lie in all parts of Asia rather than with the west.