Developing Far Eastern Region Russia’s Priority
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) is held annually in cooperation with the Far East regional administration in the city of Vladivostok. Three years of COVID-19, followed by Russia’s ‘special military operation’ and the current geopolitical situation, have adversely affected this corporate business event, as Russia looks towards the East and makes the main focus on developing the Far East.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the opening session that the government would not allow the pace of development to slacken in the Russian Far East as it is a strategic region for the country. “We will definitely not be scaling down the pace of development in the region because the development of the Far East is an absolute priority for Russia, a direct priority for Russia as a whole for the entire 21st century, because it is a colossal region with a small population but huge potential. Of course, this is a strategic interest for the country,” the president said at the Eastern Economic Forum, which Vladivostok hosted on September 10-13.
Putin further pointed out that it is necessary “not only to hold on to this region but also to develop it and put its resources to work for the benefit of the state.” According to the president, “it is necessary to talk not only about the development of mineral resources in the Far East, it is necessary to build even more enterprises for the processing of industrial raw materials, so as to increase the added value.”
Putin later held a discussion with the Vice Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Zhang Guoqing. Both noted that Russia-China relations in this area – the area of economic cooperation – have reached a very high level. This is a derivative of what has been achieved in the political sphere, but the results are excellent, as every year, trade grows by almost one-third. This year, over the first seven months, trade is up about the same amount, 24 per cent – to as much as 120 billion. The goal President Xi Jinping and Putin have set – to reach the $200 billion mark in trade – can be achieved by the end of 2023.
In addition to the above, Putin held a discussion with the Deputy Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Pany Yathotou, also on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum. Russia and Laos have made significant contributions to the development of bilateral parliamentary relations.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Yury Trutnev, earlier reiterated that the forum has been the world’s leading platform for discussing economic and political issues. The largest delegations are from such countries as China, Myanmar, India, Mongolia and Laos. He also expressed confident that a large number of new investment agreements with foreign participation would become the outcome of the forum. The Far East region expects new projects, technologies and jobs; and also to strengthen the Far East’s position in the system of economic relations in Asia Pacific.
For the past few years, Western and European businesses have largely been missing in this forum. And those from Asia and the Pacific are getting fewer and fewer as opportunities seem monotonous and speeches have the same message relating to world geopolitics. Business people are really for business opportunities, not geopolitics. Business people are simply looking for unique products, services and profits.
Nevertheless, at the start of the forum, the photo exhibition Developing the Far East, organized by the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic with the support of the Office of the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Far Eastern Federal District and the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, opened in the departure area of the domestic terminal.
The exposition presents a chronology of images: a decade during which unique conditions for business development were created in the Far East, more than 2.8 thousand investment projects were launched, about 700 of which have already been put into operation.
According to analysts interviewed by Russian media Izvestia, the forum’s agenda will be comprehensive, covering both domestic Russian and external economic issues. “This year, due to the greater focus on the East that has emerged in the country’s economy, the agenda for discussions are extensive, on both internal domestic and external issues,” according to Vladimir Klimanov, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Regional Policy at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) Institute of Applied Economic Research.
Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the EEF Organizing Committee, says participants have the chance to exchange experiences, and discuss networking practices at EEF events, including a plenary session, panel sessions, round tables, and business dialogues. The main theme of this year’s forum is “The Path to Partnership, Peace and Prosperity” fixed by the Roscongress Foundation. The Eastern Economic Forum was held on 10–13 September 2023 in Vladivostok on the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University.