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A.Overchuk: Your Excellences, dear colleagues and friends!

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance  of consolidated efforts in the face of global challenges. The key instrumental role is played by international associations, especially those that focus on practical cooperation. We believe that the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) should be at the forefront of such multilateral processes. Developing partnerships between the two parts of Greater Eurasia offers good opportunities for building broad practical cooperation between them.

Due to ongoing outbreaks of the coronavirus disease, global recovery processes are uneven and unstable. Under these circumstances, mass immunization of the world’s population remains a priority. This can only be achieved through multilateral cooperation in a depoliticized, equitable,  and transparent manner.

The growing contradictions in trade against the background of worsening geopolitical tensions pose serious threats to the long-term recovery of the global economy.

Only through collective efforts can we prevent a negative scenario, which threatens to destroy the integrity  of the framework of global economic relations. Strengthening the multilateral economic system by restoring the effectiveness of the World Trade Organization is one of the ways to do this. We need to define a unifying agenda and seek reasonable and compromise solutions. For Russia with over 70 percent  of its foreign trade turnover involving ASEM countries,  it is an unquestionable priority.

Food security represents another important vector  of cooperation. Even in the present – emergency – environment, we continue to work on building sustainable food systems and strengthening the agricultural capacities of other nations.  The share of ASEM partners in Russian trade in the respective commodities exceeds two-thirds. The rate is steadily increasing: from January to September this year, trade turnover  in the agricultural sector went up by 16.5 percent compared to the same period of 2020 and amounted to USD 21 billion.

Russia is an active participant in global efforts to mitigate  the negative impacts of climate change. We are consistently implementing a policy to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions.

Russia’s energy system is one of the most diversified  and environmentally friendly in the world: the share of energy produced from nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar power plants  is already close to 40 percent. We attach great importance  to strengthening energy security throughout the whole Eurasia.

The global transportation and logistics system is severely affected by COVID-19. Routes of the overland supply chain between Asia and Europe through Russia save the day. Rail traffic has increased: in the 9 months of 2021, over 568 thousand containers have been delivered by rail from China  to Europe and back – 47% increase compared to the same period of 2020. Transit through our territory is becoming more convenient, quick, and secure due to the introduction  of digital technologies that enable seamlessness and multimodality.

Today, it is impossible to imagine the connectivity we are building in the ASEM region without digital technologies. Russia is one of the leaders in digitalization in various fields − from public services to e-commerce. We devote particular attention to the introduction of artificial intelligence – a strategic resource capable of improving various aspects of people’s lives. We see enormous potential for cooperation in this area across the business circles of Asian and European countries. The key drivers of digital transformation are major cities. This year Moscow – for the second time since 2017 – has been recognized as one of top 7 smart cities of the world.

We must keep looking for effective solutions in urban development. We have not yet had a focused conversation  on this topic in the ASEM. We propose to hold a round table to exchange the relevant experience and technologies.  The concept paper has been sent to all forum partners. We count on your support.

There is great potential for deepening customs cooperation. We have a lot to do in this respect, including both the simplification of customs procedures and the regulation of e-commerce. We could also work on more specific areas.  In particular, the Federal Customs Service of Russia proposes  to establish closer cooperation on the control over illegal transboundary movement of tobacco products. It is an interesting and promising topic to follow.

We are using available resources to deepen cooperation  in education. Under the restrictions adopted due to the pandemic, STIpot − Internet platform supporting academic mobility, which was established in the ASEM on Russia’s initiative in 2019 − is gaining popularity. It facilitates direct contacts between professors, students, and academicians, as well as the implementation of joint research programs. Another idea  we have is to hold a meeting of the ASEM Expert Group  on Interregional Credit Transfer Mechanisms  and Learning Outcome Systems.

Volunteering plays an important role in overcoming  the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. In many countries, volunteering has reached a considerable scale. In Russia, several hundred thousand members of volunteer movements have helped millions of people. We strive to encourage this good cause in any possible way. Last year, we presented to the ASEM partners our initiative to develop contacts among volunteer organizations of Asia and Europe. We have some ideas  to establish an international volunteering school and launch  a contest of volunteer projects. In December, we will hold  a large-scale humanitarian event – We Are Together International Prize − devised to recognize the contribution of the civil society to the response to the pandemic. We are glad that the Asia-Europe Foundation has become our partner in this undertaking.

Dear colleagues,

Russia has always been and remains a constructive and responsible member of the ASEM process supporting the development of positive non-politicized cooperation through the strengthening of various dimensions of connectivity in our common region. Only together we can effectively overcome new waves of the pandemic and successfully embark on the recovery path to reach the sustainable trajectory  of dynamic inclusive growth.

Thank you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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