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 ILC2021-8 Session 3 - Presentation of Dr. Vladimir Petrovsky

European integration was built on the foundation of reconciliation and the accord reached between the countries of Europe following the Second World War. Economic cooperation between European countries and the creation of the European Union became possible on the basis of the understanding that Europeans will never again fight each other.

However, this has not yet happened in Northeast Asia (NEA). The presence of unresolved territorial disputes and conflicts, and the absence of regional mechanisms for regional security and cooperation, are rooted in the events of recent history in the second half of the 20th century, and are caused by the historical and geopolitical contradictions associated with them. Different and sometimes opposite interpretations of the historical, geopolitical and international legal consequences of the end of World War II in the Pacific Ocean gave rise to territorial conflicts between the countries of the region that have not yet been resolved.

We should also take into account the differences in the political culture of the countries of Europe and Northeast Asia. If Europeans are historically inclined towards collective interaction (Concert of Europe, League of Nations, etc.), then this cannot be said about the NEA region, which has always felt a lack of mechanisms for collective action in the field of security and economic cooperation.

The key question is whether the creation of an isolated economic union of Northeast Asia is possible, or if it will take place in the context of the formation of mechanisms of multilateral integration processes in the field of economy and trade, including the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP).

The question is also what the future holds for the trilateral free trade zone between Japan, the Republic of Korea and the PRC, negotiations on the creation of which have been going on for several years, despite the fact that each of these countries has already entered the RCEP or CPTTP.

Another important question is whether the economic union in NEA will be inclusive or closed to certain countries (for example, China). At the same time, it should be borne in mind that in Eurasia there is a process of conjugation of Eurasian economic integration within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (API). If implemented, it will radically change the geo-economic and geopolitical situation in Eurasia.

The idea of ​​the Greater Eurasian Partnership (BEP) proposed by Russia is designed to harmonize various regional economic formats based on the principles of transparency and mutual benefit. So far there have been no precedents for interblock trade and economic partnerships; however, according to experts, it is quite possible in a 10-year perspective to form the BEP as a network of free trade zones (FTZ), a set of trading blocks, the most likely format of which would be the so-called "bowl of spaghetti."

The processes of development of cross-border and interregional cooperation in NEA are also very important. The experience of the Association of North-East Asia Regional Governments ("NEAR") should be studied. It is an organization for supporting interregional cooperation, which includes the regional governments of Russia, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, North Korea and Mongolia. The Association unites 77 regional administrations, including 16 from the Russian Federation.

Large infrastructure projects that would enhance the economic interconnection of the region can become the driver of the creation of an economic union in NEA: underwater bridges-tunnels across the Bering Strait, between Sakhalin and Hokkaido, as well as connecting Japan and South Korea.

The latter can become especially important due to its great length (more than 200 km). At the same time, one should take into account the experience of the Chinese project for the construction of a tunnel that will pass under the Bohai Bay and will connect the port of Yantai in Shandong province in the south with Dalian in Liaoning province in the north.

The tunnel will stretch for 125 kilometers - this is more than the length of the two longest underwater tunnels of our time combined: the Japanese Seikan (53.85 kilometers) and the Eurotunnel under the English Channel (51 kilometers).

The project is worth about $ 43 billion and will take 19 years to complete. Its implementation will significantly reduce the travel time between the largest ports at the entrance to the Bohai Bay. Now, by car from Yantai to Dalian, you can get there in 12-15 hours, by ferry - in 6-7 hours, through a new underwater tunnel it will take only an hour.

This project has funding sources, a compelling business case, and an acceptable payback period of 10-12 years. If such conditions are met, then the construction of an underground tunnel connecting Japan and the Republic of Korea will become possible. It should be borne in mind that its final destinations, Busan and Fukuoka, are already connected by a high-speed sea ferry, which casts doubt on the economic feasibility of the underwater bridge-tunnel project.

 

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