Excerpts from the transcript:
Alexei Overchuk: Energy markets are undoubtedly one of the most important issues on the Eurasian Economic Union’s agenda. An agreement on a common gas market is under discussion.
Yesterday, at the restricted-attendance meeting, the chairman of the board of the Eurasian Economic Commission briefed the heads of government of the five countries on the status of the negotiation process, and the prime ministers decided that this process should be continued.
Question: A draft agreement on regulating the alcoholic beverages market is also being discussed at the Intergovernmental Council. What stage has been reached in the talks on this document? Will it be signed at the next review?
Alexei Overchuk: This is a very interesting question. It has been under discussion for a long time and illustrates the nature of the Eurasian Economic Union. Strictly speaking, the presence of a special importer of alcoholic beverages in the Republic of Belarus is actually a barrier to producers from other EAEU member states entering the Belarusian market. This is on the one hand.
On the other hand, of course, we cannot help but take into account the position of Belarus which says: we have more than 60 distilleries in our country and grain production is higher in terms of cost than in other member states, and if we simply create a market where these employees are not protected, they will lose their jobs, their wages, and so on.
So the process is very complicated. It is important that everyone understands, and the Belarusian side understands that the problem does exist. It is obvious to everyone that we will need to seek a solution, which will be mutually acceptable to all countries. This is not the way it works in the European Union.
Question: A question about industrial cooperation and its financing. Earlier the parties agreed on financing through antidumping duties – you were supposed to deduct 10 percent. Can you estimate how much money will be raised this year to finance projects? And when do you plan to select the projects?
Alexei Overchuk: First of all, and this is very important, thing must be done in their proper order. That is, we first need to prepare the legal framework.
We expect that the relevant documents should be signed during the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting, which is scheduled for May. This will be done by the heads of state.
We very much hope that by then all the internal procedures in each country will have been followed. Given that condition, we understand that funding can begin in 2024.
As for the selection of projects, this is already underway at the commission level. We understand which sectors of the economy we would like to develop as a priority. In fact, they have already been agreed on: microelectronics, pharmaceuticals, and the automotive industry; that much is clear.
From this point of view, the business community is still considering alternatives. But, of course, within the framework of the priorities that have been identified, it should play a big role – to propose appropriate projects that will actually enable us to decide on the financing. This will be done primarily by the Eurasian Commission.
Question: As regards business initiatives. Some economists now say that in order for the EAEU to start competing in global markets, we need to create our own transnational corporations. Is the question of integration being considered in this vein?
Alexei Overchuk: This is a very difficult question. What did we do last year that was important? We are creating a financial infrastructure for our businesses. This is the Eurasian Reinsurance Company, and the relevant decisions have been made. We will launch it this year, I believe, and then we will see. Infrastructure companies like this, which are necessary for the functioning of our economies, will be established first.
Question: Is there a temporary mechanism for Russian companies regarding taxation of e-commerce?
Alexei Overchuk: You know that negotiations are under way. Actually, it has been decided that there will be a corresponding change in the union treaty, which was formulated at a time when internet commerce didn’t play such a big role in our everyday life. Today, we need to bring the taxation of internet trade in line with international practice, i.e., taxation should follow the country of destination principle. In fact, this has caused some controversy where some countries have unilaterally begun to introduce this approach, which led to double taxation. I think that this year we will finish the process of coordinating the agreement.