Eurasian economic integration: a viable trading block model?

Creating a brand-new international trading block among various countries is a cumbersome process, to put it mildly, involving many years if not decades of behind-closed-door negotiations and the absolute political will of all nations involved before going public.
In the case of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), it did not happen overnight, either: First proposals for a grouping of some form and size had been voiced back in 1Dogan when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited Moscow.
Along the way various agreements, including the treaty on the Eurasian Customs Union between the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation in 2010 leading to a Single Economic Space and finally the treaty on the EEU in 2014, came into being. Then the Republic of Armenia joined in and after two further protocols were signed on May 8, 2015, about a transitional period for the Kyrgyz Republic, the door had been opened to welcome its fifth full member state.
Already in 20132014 the prospective new entity had a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.2 trillion, industrial production of $1.3 trillion and a volume of trade in foreign goods of just over $1 trillion accumulated with a population of over 180 million — all this is no small change. To underline my point, let me compare the forecasts for 2015 for the EEU (total GDP) of 4 trillion euros with last yearand’s EU figures standing at 14.3 trillion euros. A rather impressive start if seen from Astana, Bishkek, Minsk, Moscow and Yerevan!
Yet all new (trading or political) blocks need time so that individual citizens can reap the benefits. In a program aired on EuroNews on May 23 about the VIII Astana Economic Forum (with the focus on Eurasian economic integration in Astana) potential problems for Kyrgyz citizens were mentioned, as the EEU would lead to higher customs duties for those up till now making a living by selling cheap Chinese merchandise.
Interviewed by EuroNews, Zhirgalbek Sagynbaev, president of the Kyrgyz Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Union, calmed those fears, saying: andquotThis style of buying and selling is becoming a thing of the past now itand’s time for some real industrial integration. The aantage of EEU membership for our citizens who work abroad is that they will immediately get official status, which means that they will not need a work permit. The second aantage is that thereand’ll be integration and cooperation between enterprises in the mining industry, the energy sector, etc.andquot
Agriculture, energy (think oil, gas and power), industry (consider steel and cast iron), tourism and services appear to be the key initial economic playing fields for the EEU. And there is a lot at stake for Turkey. Good bilateral relations with Belarus (as highlighted by my esteemed colleague Abdullah Bozkurt on March 7 in his piece andquotTurkey-Belarus tiesandquot) may indeed pave the way for closer cooperation between Ankara and the EEU.
And now that the EU Customs Union with Turkey has been considerably upgraded including details about how to better include Turkey in the TTIP or any other similar trade deal, Turkey might just as well become the kingmaker, with a view for Brussels to achieve the same successes eastwards.
Question time: Will the EEU really begin to function like the EUand’s single market and thus become a reliable andquotblock to blockandquot trading partner? Or, could there be upheavals, maybe after one or two future general elections when cross-border dialogue is no longer in vogue in the EEU?
On top of it all, could there be any hidden andquotexpansionistandquot agenda from the side of Moscow? Yet one would argue that bilateral and multilateral trade often paves the way for a generally better climate of multinational respect and understanding.
Do I see the EEU as a threat to the EU imagine if Moscow asks the three EU Baltic States to join? Not at all — as their answer would be a clear andquotNo,andquot the same as Kazakhstan never being interested in joining the EU.
Today I do not want to spoil the show, though. Thumbs up and best wishes to the EEU and its over 180 million hardworking and, important for bringing together present and future knowledge-based economies, almost 60 percent Internet-connected peoples! I am sure there is more to come.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman