World • 13 April, 2020

Eurasian Intergovernmental Council hosts first video conference meeting

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April 10, 2020, the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council held the first video conference meeting, where several decisions, instructions and orders were adopted, including measures to ensure the Eurasian Economic Union’s economic stability in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting was attended by Prime Ministers of the Republic of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin, the Russian Federation — Mikhail Mishustin, Belarus — Sergey Rumas, Moldova — Ion Chicu, Kyrgyzstan — Muhammedkaly Abylgaziev, Armenia — Nikol Pashinyan and Chair of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission Mikhail Myasnikovich.

The meeting of the Intergovernmental Council was held online in a narrow and extended composition. The extended meeting was dedicated to measures taken within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union aimed at ensuring economic stability in the context of the development of the COVID-19 coronavirus infection pandemic

According to the Head of the Government Askar Mamin, in Kazakhstan so far the number of infected has reached 802 cases. Of these, more than 60 people recovered, 9 died. The spread of the virus has led to an economic crisis. The growth and development of entire sectors of the global and regional economies has been suspended. Many industries are experiencing record declines. The collapse of prices in the energy market has created new large-scale sources of pressure on large producers of raw materials. The subsequent weakening of currencies led to the formation of new barriers to the growth and development of economies.

“Under these conditions, Kazakhstan has taken a number of aggressive measures to combat the spread of the disease and stabilize the national economy. From March 15, 2020, the state of emergency was introduced, restrictions on entry and exit from the country are enforced. In large cities, including the capital, strict quarantine is introduced. Internal and external flights, rail transportation were suspended, all international and domestic events were canceled, the activities of shopping and entertainment facilities and other crowded places were suspended,” Mamin said.

In order to stabilize the economy and support the population, the state allocated more than $13 billion. First of all, this is financial support for vulnerable groups, including the provision of necessary medicines and food, suspension of payments on bank loans, deferment of taxes and other obligatory payments. Measures have been introduced for preferential lending to SMEs and large-scale business incentives to ensure the sustainability of the private sector activity in times of crisis.

The Government approved the Employment Roadmap, aimed at ensuring employment through the implementation of infrastructure projects with the creation of about 240 thousand new jobs. Against the background of these measures, the Government manages to maintain, in general, stable economic growth dynamics.

According to Mamin, the anti-crisis measures undertaken within the framework of the EAEU will certainly become a factor in mitigating the effects of the shock.

“Within the EAEU, we have established a ban on the export of certain types of food and medical supplies, zero duties on the import of socially important goods, personal protective equipment, disinfectants, diagnostic reagents, certain types of medical equipment and materials. Today we are adopting a list of joint measures by governments and national banks aimed at ensuring economic stability in the context of the pandemic,” said Mamin.

The Prime Minister of Belarus Sergey Rumas noted that one of the important issues on the agenda of the Intergovernmental Council’s video conferencing session today is the joint response to the current situation related to the spread of coronavirus infection and, no less important, the work to restore economic growth in the post-crisis period. We should aim at a serious de-dollarization of the Union’s economy, dramatically increasing the pricing and settlement of goods and services delivered in the EAEU market in national currencies. This is especially true of fuel and energy and raw materials.

“We need to be prepared for the prompt resolution of issues that we previously left for later in comfortable conditions. The pandemic demonstrated the importance of pursuing common policies in the EAEU in the field of industry and agribusiness, and joint import substitution programs in the most important sectors for the economy and livelihoods. Obviously, the nearest forecasts for the development of national economies are negative. Today there are no unambiguous estimates on the timing and price to overcome the pandemic. It cannot be ruled out that we will simply have to become at least temporarily a common, but at the same time self-sufficient market,” Rumas said.

Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin noted that today the priority task is to protect the life and health of citizens of our countries. It is necessary to further strengthen cooperation in the sanitary-epidemiological sphere, take prompt measures at the level of the Eurasian Economic Commission, and take advanced steps to prevent the mass spread of the disease.

“The second task is to ensure the functioning of the single market of the five, especially its logistics infrastructure in the supply of products in mutual trade. The decisions have already been made. Some goods are exempt from import duties. These are disinfection and personal protective equipment, reagents that are necessary for diagnosis, medical equipment and materials. A temporary collective ban on the export of such goods from the territory of the Union have been introduced for the first time. And here it is important that the mechanism of preliminary consultations works in full force so that decisions on the introduction of time limits necessary for the fight against coronavirus infection are agreed as quickly as possible, literally within two days,”Mishustin said.

Another important area is the intensification of efforts to support economies.

“Together, it is necessary to reduce the impact of negative factors, to learn to act in conditions of uncertainty in world markets. This is a big, comprehensive job. Speaking specifically about our country, we have reserved significant funds for the fight against coronavirus, we provide assistance to people whose lives have changed due to the spread of infection, and to enterprises, companies and sectors of the economy. To do this, we developed and adopted an anti-crisis plan, identified the industries that suffered most from the coronavirus in order to provide them with targeted support,”  Mishustin said.

In turn, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan emphasized that under the unprecedented conditions that have arisen, it is necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of the free trade regime within the EAEU, and the restriction of goods and services within the EAEU is unacceptable. The non-stop freight transport communication in the EAEU today has become of paramount importance for Armenia. Armenia is ready to provide support to the EAEU partners as far as possible, it is necessary to accelerate the adoption of measures to significantly increase the share of payments in national currencies in trade within the EAEU.

“Unfortunately, we are directly on the verge of a recession. Apparently, this will no longer be possible to avoid. No one knows what the scenario of this crisis will be, how long the pandemic will last. In the EAEU, we are obliged to coordinate our efforts in the fight against the pandemic. It is necessary to accelerate the adoption of measures to significantly increase the share of payments in national currencies in trade within the EAEU. We must strengthen our alliance even in the face of a pandemic and the serious challenges of an increasing recession. We must prove the viability of our organization, its viability during the crisis and be ready to take advantage of all the economic opportunities that arise in the post-crisis period,” Pashinyan said.

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Muhammedkaly Abylgaziev stressed that today, an important issue for all EAEU member states is ensuring food security of countries and maintaining mutual trade at the proper level.

“Against the background of what is happening, we are witnessing a critical decline in economic activity, a sharp slowdown in economic growth and mutual trade. I propose to carry out joint work on the adoption of temporary sanitary and epidemiological rules for the movement of goods and drivers, since we have seen in many countries how these rules affect international trade in the world. Our entire economic trading system and the economic situation in our integration depend on the speed of logistic procedures and the time of movement of goods. In connection with the influence of coronavirus infection, it is necessary to prepare a prognosis for the medium term and develop measures to overcome the negative consequences of the pandemic,” Abylgaziev said.

Moldovan Prime Minister Ion Chicu said that in the country today, replenishment in the budget fell by 45%. The state of emergency in Moldova was introduced on March 17. Almost 1,300 cases have been confirmed in the country.

“So far, we have a stable situation in the foreign exchange market, but it is clear that there is a lot of tension there. A large amount (by our standards) has been allocated to the unemployment fund and now we give out about $150 to everyone who has registered himself. These are already thousands of requests, including those that are returning to the country. With these measures, we are trying to deprecate the consequences,” Chicu said.

The Chair of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission Mikhail Myasnikovich concluded that the Eurasian Economic Commission restructured its activities, focusing on resolving daily pressing issues in mutual trade, and developing joint measures with the government to ensure economic stability and counteract coronavirus infection.

“Daily monitoring of the situation in the food and consumer goods market is carried out. There are also temporary restrictions on exports outside the EAEU for a sensitive group of goods. The proposed measures are grouped in two sections,” Myasnikovich said.

The first section is a package of urgent temporary stabilization measures. It provides for the organization of interaction between the relevant authorized bodies of the Union when conducting sanitary and epidemiological measures to prevent and minimize the consequences of the pandemic, including through consultations on the functioning of the food market and the supply of essential goods.

“This includes the creation of a green corridor for importing critical goods, temporary reduction or zeroing of import duties on goods and materials for certain sectors of the economy, ensuring uninterrupted operation of transport and freight transportation,” Myasnikovich said.

The second section is a systemic measure aimed at creating conditions for recovery and ensuring further economic development. It provides for ensuring macroeconomic stability, the stability of the functioning of financial markets and payment systems, and support for the real sector.

Following the meeting, a number of decisions, instructions and orders were adopted, including the EAEU measures to ensure economic stability in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The document provides for enhanced interaction between the authorized bodies in the field of sanitary and epidemiological welfare of the population, simplification of customs procedures, the introduction of uniform time restrictions on the export of critical goods to third countries, promotion of digitalization of trade and cashless payments, joint activities to create antiviral drugs and vaccines, and to establish their mass production and other measures.

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