Kudrin doesn’t rule out Russia – EU free trade zone “in distant future”

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MOSCOW. July 3 (Interfax) – The head of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR), former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has called for intensifying trade cooperation with European countries.

“We need to reach a new agreement with EU countries in the future, and in the distant future this could be a free trade zone. If we want to be open we must say that we are working on the principles of the WTO, including in terms of transparency of subsidies and tariff decisions,” Kudrin said at the Primakov Readings forum in Moscow.

Russia could lose appeal in the eyes of its partners in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) if it does not set out on a course of modernization, he said.

“If we don’t set out on the course of modernization, don’t improve our jurisdiction, don’t improve the technological base, we won’t become a region of attraction, including four our neighbors in the Eurasian Economic Union. We must become a beneficial partner for them,” Kudrin said.

He also said that the challenge of normalizing relations between Russia and the West will require simultaneous conciliatory steps from both sides.

“I believe that this is possible if there is a desire from both sides. For example, the heads of the biggest world companies attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Everyone says yes, we want, this is possible. It’s important to understand in what format we are meeting each other half way. And politicians believe that this is possible. We’ve been in difficult situations before, but found solutions. This requires certain steps on Russia’s part,” Kudrin said.

Asked about the existence of a backup scenario for Russia’s development if normalization of relations with the West turns out to be blocked for the next decade, Kudrin said: “It exists, but we won’t release it.”