Thursday 27th of July 2017, 06:47 CET
Free-trade zone for CIS countries
September 19, 2003
Associated Press

Posted by HW on July 27, 2017

Ex-soviet states
A dozen former Soviet republics endorsed an ambitious plan Friday aimed at recreating the economic structure that collapsed with the breakup of the Soviet Union, a move leaders say is meant to boost sagging economies but not to turn back the clock.

Free-trade zone
The Commonwealth of Independent States agreed to work toward the eventual creation of a free-trade zone stretching from Central Asia to the edge of the European Union.

Legislation
Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan led the integration efforts, signing a separate agreement to synchronize their legislation on tariffs, customs and transport for the free movement of goods, capital and labor.

Common market
The four nations set a December 1 deadline to outline the main steps needed to create the common market, a zone similar to the European Union.

Kazakh idea
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been credited with proposing the idea, said the other eight CIS nations would be encouraged to move toward membership.

Essential
A free-trade zone is considered essential for many of the former Soviet republics facing struggling manufacturing sectors and inadequate market reforms, making them unappealing partners for the more prosperous West.

"Will of the people"
"I believe that in signing this agreement, we aren't merely taking a professional, correct step, but in the clearest sense fulfilling the will of the people of our countries," Russian President Vladimir Putin said after the CIS summit Friday in the Black Sea resort of Yalta.

First progress
Boosting economic cooperation has topped the CIS agenda almost since its founding 12 years ago, yet little progress has been made.
Earlier attempts have been hindered by gaping differences between the sizes of the region's economies and levels of development, as well as fears of domination by Russia, still the region's heavyweight.

"Soviet train has gone"
Putin tried to lessen those fears calling "the Soviet Union a very complicated page in the history of our people" but adding, "That train has left."

Future
"Now we must think about today and about the future of our people, and if we are going to take responsibility for that, we must gather together all the positives that were left for us from the preceding generation," Putin said.
The overall plan endorsed by all 12 members extends through 2010 and calls for synchronizing markets, particularly in the transport and energy sectors.

Kuchma
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, whose country has been the most uneasy about an economic union as it tries to balance ties to Russia with efforts to integrate with the West, said ex-Soviet states need a common market.
"The European market is closed for us," Kuchma said. "Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow." Kuchma said the republics accounted for 79 percent of trade with each other during the Soviet era, but only 26 percent last year a "catastrophic" decline.

Other cooperation
The presidents also agreed to boost cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration and drugs, honor the Soviet veterans who fought in World War II and remember the victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.
 
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