SOCHI (Russia) — Historical and significant, that’s how Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak described the recently-concluded Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit.
Southeast Asia nations reached a consensus in Sochi 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 in Sochi, Najib said the summit is significant because it provides 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 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.
Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Najib said other Asean countries had also submitted a request to establish ties with EAEU.
“We have to decide if we should go on multilateral basis or bilateral basis but whatever it is, importantly, the outcome should be the desire for us to achieve eventual economic integration,” he said.
Apart from economic integration, Najib also stressed the importance of working with Russia in the areas of security, politics and culture.
To a question if the economic integration would be similar to the European Union (EU), Najib said it would not be so but instead an FTA.
It would entail tariff reductions, movement of goods or services and there will not be any political and sovereign issues, he said.
It is estimated that Asean and EAEU member countries had a combined Gross Domestic Product of US$3.5 trillion and a combined population of over 700 million.
“It’s a huge market with enormous potential,” Najib said.
On the effectiveness of economic sanctions, Najib said “I don’t think so. I don’t think they are that effective.
“The most important thing is to engage in the process of consultation, negotiation and avoid contemplating sanctions, because I think is will hurt more people than you intended,” he added.