Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan: customs union as new geopolitical reality

The lower chamber of the Russian parliament has ratified an agreement on a customs code, the basic document of the recently established customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This code defines rights and obligations of supranational and national customs bodies of the countries comprising the union. Apart from other things, it focuses on control over transportation of goods across the borders. The customs code of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is taking effect on 1 July.

The issues related to the customs union were discussed at the meeting of the CIS prime ministers in Saint Petersburg on Friday. The Russian premier Vladimir Putin noted that the customs union appears to become more than just an economic entity but a new geopolitical reality. However, apart from the code, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have to agree on nearly 20 more papers. Mr. Putin said eight of them were prepared, and added that a common economic zone being formed is a key to boost integration in the Eurasian economic community and in the CIS. Mr. Putin invited other members of the EurAsEc to join the customs union and reminded the audience that after 2011 Moscow, Minsk and Astana are set to form a single economic area.

It will open new horizons, and not only in the sphere of customs policy. This will boost labor migration and investment. Vladimir Putin confirmed that investment climate would be improved even before a single economic area is set up: by the end of 2010 it is expected to revise legislation on foreign investments in the strategic branches of Russia's economy.

According to Alexei Krasavin, Professor at the Russian Higher School of Economics, the idea is to cancel excessive restrictions and bans.

Restrictions imposed in 2006-2007 have led to a situation when we lack enough money to develop some important projects in gas and oil industry. So, investment guarantee is a really crucial issue. We should now if a state or a bank will buy a foreign investor's share in case a project turns out to be unsuccessful, said Alexei Krasavin.

Eased tax regime will attract more money from abroad, mainly into processing and raw materials industries. Prime ministers of the CIS countries seem to understand the prospects of integration quite well. Their meeting in Saint Petersburg has resulted in 19 agreements, including a Protocol on the stages of forming a single energy market between the CIS countries.


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