The 22nd annual meeting of Russian-American Pacific Partnership

The 22nd annual meeting of Russian-American Pacific Partnership (RAPP) took place in the city of Yakutsk (Republic of Yakutia, Russia) on 19-20 of July 2017. RAPP is the only dialogue platform between Russia and USA dedicated to the development of interaction on interregional level. It unites business, administration and public of the regions of Russian Far East and US Western Coast. Permanent participants of RAPP are such huge companies as «ExxonMobil», «Black & Veatch Corporation» and «Inter Pacific Aviation and Marketing». Annual RAPP meeting is a place for discussions and experience exchange on such issues as the development of interregional cooperation, economics of Asia-Pacific region and other up to date questions.

The meeting in Yakutia, in spite to Russian-American relations on high level, was held in the atmosphere of friendship, partnership and constructive dialogue. Of course, disputed between countries had its negative influence on RAPP.  Since 2015 the participation of US business and representatives of regional and federal administrations in RAPP meeting fell significantly. Participants explain this situation by the pressure from US government. But, the main thing is that this dialogue platform was saved during the period of cold relations. And today under the new administration of D. Trump RAPP can play a role of a bridge for relations’ improvement.

Since the new owner of the White House came to power, we can see changes directed for the development of constructive dialogue in Russian-American politics. The face-to-face meeting between D. Trump and V. Putin took place during the G-20 Summit. Number of telephone talks between leaders and consultations between the ministers of foreign affairs are increasing.

Taking into account that Russian-American disagreements on international arena are complicated, the process of relations’ normalization will take a lot of time and forces, especially because of anti-Russian rhetoric in US Congress. In such conditions, interregional interactions should become a driving force for the improvement of cooperation between Washington and Moscow. Significantly, that both D. Trump and V. Putin understand the importance of the development of regional relations. Such directives were sent to regional administrations by State Department of the USA and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.

Members of US delegation during the last RAPP meeting also underlined the significance of interregional contacts and the necessity to keep them out of intergovernmental relations’ influence. President of the Council for US-Russian Relations, executive director of RAPP Derek Norberg mentioned, that there is a necessity to divide US-Russian relations on Atlantic and Pacific directions. On the Atlantic direction they are characterized by disagreements on Syria, Ukraine, NATO enlargement and so on. On Pacific – there are no significant disagreements and relations are characterized by friendship, partnership and by the will to develop a win-win business cooperation.

The Consul general of US Consulate in Vladivostok Michael Keays announced the similar idea. He said that, political conjuncture should not influence the development of business contacts. American business is ready to enlarge the cooperation with Russian partners, especially on the Far East, in spite the political situation, sanctions and other limitations, if it is profitable. Companies, which are already working on the Far East of Russia (Caterpillar, ExxonMobil, etc.), are not going to shorten their business, but vice a verse will increase their presence.

Even though there was small number of American business representatives, Russian companies, which were interested in establishing contacts with foreign partners, were able to do it. Joint stock venture «Chukotenergo» made an agreement to visit Alaska in order to get the experience and technology of building and using wind-generators in High North conditions. Before this, the company had a dialogue with South Korean and Japan organizations about building wind-generators on Lavrentia cape. But, solutions of Asian partners turned out to be inappropriate for extreme weather conditions of Chucotka.  Also, «Chukotenergo» reached an agreement with «Black & Veatch» engineering company on designing of wind power plant in Chukotka.

At the same time representatives of tourist business of the Far East of Russia established contacts with «Lindblad Expeditions». They agreed to visit tourist fair in the USA and discuss the perspectives of joint cruise project with visiting Alaska and Northern territories of the Far East of Russia. The administration of international airport of Anadyr (Chukotka) reached an understanding with «Inter Pacific Aviation and Marketing» on opening new charter flights between Chukotka and Alaska and development of regional aviation.

Of course, these contacts are not yet concrete agreements and investment projects, but it is what you should begin with, acquaintance with potential partners. That means that RAPP fulfils its main goal to develop contacts between businesses of two countries. To raise the effectiveness of Partnership, develop of its activities, involve more business representatives into the dialogue, RAPP needs organizational changes. There is a need to establish a permanent structure of the Partnership, which will conduct the work to involve new participants, and organize the informational support between annual meetings.

For instance, RAPP secretariat can create a list of Russian and US companies, who are interested in doing business with each other, review of legal aspects of doing business in Russia and the USA, presentation of potential opportunities for American companies on Russian Far East and for Russian on the Western coast of the USA. It is weird that US business doesn’t know about such an initiative as Advanced Social Economic Zones of the Far East. Partnership practically doesn’t encompass the cooperation in the spheres of culture, science and education.

Actually, the need of structural developments of RAPP became imminent long ago. For 22 years of existence of this institute, all we got is an annual meeting, after which participants forget about RAPP until the next year. Nothing is on between the meetings, no work is conducted. Most participants of 22nd RAPP meeting are aware of this necessity and mentioned it during the forum. Of course, this object is not a trivial one and it needs significant efforts and permanent financing of RAPP work, probably through membership fees and sponsor support. But when if not today, when interregional cooperation should become a driving force for the improvement of US-Russian relations, when there is an understanding of it in Washington and in Moscow, is a time to raise the level of RAPP.

As a conclusion, I want to remind that today RAPP is the only platform for the development of interregional cooperation between the countries, that is why it has a great responsibility on overall evolution of US-Russian relations.

 

Alexandr Voronenko, PhD.,
senior expert of Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Asia-Pacific Region Research Center,
KSUEL

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