MOSCOW (Ria Novosti)–Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said on Thursday he hoped that CIS member states would create a free trade zone by the end of the year.
The statement came during a meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States’ Economic Council in Russia’s second city of St. Petersburg. Shuvalov said the signing of the relevant agreement was a major task for Russia, who currently holds the rotating chair of the CIS.
Much work has already been done in this direction, Shuvalov said, adding that the CIS member countries should “speed up negotiations” in order to reach the agreement by the end of the year.
Andrei Slepnev, a Russian deputy economic development minister, said during the meeting that the countries had agreed to discuss the issue during the summer and solve the last questions in September.
Former Soviet republics agreed to create a common free trade zone in 1994. However, a relevant agreement has not been signed. The establishment of a free trade zone is seen as a step towards the creation of a single economic space in the post-Soviet area.
The CIS, a loose association of post-Soviet countries, consists of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed in November 2009 an agreement to create a customs union, paving the way for a single economic space. The agreement came into force on January 1, but is unable to start working fully until disputes are resolved and the customs code comes into effect.
The three countries have agreed to create a single economic space by January 1, 2012.
Ukraine has said it does not intend to join the customs union, but has supported the idea of free trade among former Soviet republics.