India seals free trade deal with Russia-led EEU

India signs free trade framework agreement with Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, move expected to further integrate regional economies as well as giving a momentum to EEU

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The negotiations regarding a free trade deal between India and the newly-formed Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) resulted a framework agreement at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

As the driving force of the EEU, Russia has long been insisting on Asia’s economic giants, foremost India and China, to side with its economically integrated bloc which was launched as of Jan. 1 this year with the participation of former Soviet republics.

Indian Trade Minister of Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman met with the EEU Trade minister Andrei Slepnev on Thursday at the Forum and sealed a tentative framework agreement in which India’s integration with the regional economic bloc is expected in the medium term.

"The two regions are big, anything done together should naturally lead to bigger outcomes," said Sitharaman according to Russia Today (RT) that quoted her remarks.

The EEC has been seeking to get attraction from India and China, the two of the world’s fastest growing economies, in order to pull more investment and transactions into the bloc’s relatively feeble economies.

“I think that in general this whole complex of measures forms a clear picture of our priorities for cooperation with partners in the Asian region, which now have the highest growth rate, and generally support the global economy,”  Slepnev said as RT also quoted him.

"We believe that a joint research group will be established in July, and we will start a joint study to be completed within a fairly short amount of time… If the study goes as planned, next year the heads of state will reach a decision to start negotiations," Slepnev added, according to Russian Sputnik agency.

The long anticipated EEU foundation agreement was signed last year in May and vitalised at the very beginning of this year by the formal participation of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia alongside their former constituent state, the Russian Federation, while Kyrgyzstan became a full member in the bloc last month.  

The EEU was considered to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s flagship foreign policy project and will function as a customs’ union between its member states which consist of nearly 177 million people and keep almost 15 percent of world’s total economic scale.

The economic bloc had previously signed a free trade framework agreement with Vietnam on May 29 and Iran is expected to be the next whereas Tajikistan has been mulling over full membership in the months to come.

For the Turkic republics of Central Asia the new economic union with Russia seems attractive, as they aim to break their landlocked isolation in trade and access Western markets.

Kazakhstan, in this vein, has long been the champion of such a customs union with Russia, and that Kyrgyzstan returned to favouring this path after Almazbek Atambayev won the presidency in December 2011.

Since Narendra Modi was elected as the prime minister of India last year, Moscow has been seeking to revive its “good-old days” relations with India, a cordial ally of the former Soviet Union, with that Russia is currently cooperating in the BRICS bloc.

The acronym for an association of five major emerging national markets, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the term BRICS corresponds to almost 42 percent of the world’s population in more than a quarter of the world’s area surface as well as 20 percent of the world’s total GDP.
Moscow and New Delhi had almost a $9.5-billion foreign trade in 2014 that had been $10.1 billion a year earlier, according to data released by the Russian Ministry of Economic Development.  

TRTWorld and agencies