On Thursday, Russia and Singapore have signed a new agreement. It is one that will ensure that the two countries will continue towards the path of significant trade growth while granting Singapore potential access to free trade with the Eurasian Economic Union. Meanwhile, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also raised the issue of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Mr. Lee has admitted that Singapore’s current trade volume with Russia is still relatively small. In fact, it’s “far from its full potential.” Last year, Russian trade volume with the country was estimated at $5.5 billion or 7.6 billion Singapore dollars. The Singaporean prime minister believes it is “not in proportion to the significance of Russia or the importance of bilateral cooperation.”
According to a report from Channel News Asia, Singapore had also signed a memorandum of understanding between the Eurasian Economic Commission. By signing this, Mr. Lee has expressed hope that his country would be able to enjoy free trade with the commission’s member countries once a free trade agreement is signed by 2018. Members of the Eurasian Economic Commission include Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Belarus.
On the other hand, the Singapore Prime Minister has also said that he believes that Russia has a significant role to play when it comes to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula as well as relations in ASEAN where Russia has already been named a dialogue partner. “My father, (founding) Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, believed that Russia would play a major role in world affairs. I am very happy to build on this foundation,” Mr. Lee remarked.
Following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the U.S. and the European Union had imposed strict economic sanctions on Russia that continue to plague the country’s economy today. These sanctions included a freeze of various funds belonging to a number of targeted individuals and companies. The sanctions also include a travel ban on a number of Russian individuals to the EU.
A recent report from Reuters revealed that the EU may be keen to extend its sanctions on Russia further when it expires in July this year. As a result, Russia has been hoping to capitalize on its relations with Asian countries in order to compensate for losses it is currently suffering under the sanctions.
According to a report from the Carnergie Moscow Center, Russia has actually pursuing Asia long before the Ukraine crisis. However, the importance of its relations with Asia has increased significantly following the sanctions. Of greatest importance to Russia is China, which is the largest economy outside of the sanction-imposing coalition.
As it tries to build up its economy with the help of Asian trade, it is believed that Russia will also try to encourage non-Western countries to “promote a concept of world order that seeks to reduce U.S. global dominance.” At the same time, it seems Russia is keen to promote itself culturally throughout Asia.
In Singapore, there are talks of putting up a Russian Cultural Center, which Mr. Lee hopes to be open by 2018. That would be just in time for the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Singapore.
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