Kyrgyzstan Delays Eurasian Union Accession Again
How long can Kyrgyzstan postpone its entry into the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union?
The plucky Central Asian state’s delays acceding to the protectionist bloc have become a curious subplot to the generally unsuccessful story of Eurasian integration thus far.
Acting Economics Minister Temir Sariev said on April 29 that Kyrgyzstan would likely not make the May 8 deadline President Almazbek Atambayev had promised to Moscow last December. May was already an extension on the January 1 deadline officials talked about throughout 2014. Instead, Kyrgyzstan will join by the end of May, said Sariev – who was named by parliament’s ruling coalition on April 29 as its candidate for premier.
Earlier, Sariev reported to Atambayev on “differences of opinion” with other EEU members – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia – suggesting the parties are still haggling over Kyrgyzstan’s entry terms even though it signed accession papers long ago.
There are two sticking points, according to Sariev. First, Kyrgyzstan insists it continue to receive concessions on imports of Chinese construction materials. Second, it rejects EEU members’ demands it undertake additional sanitary inspections, above and beyond current EEU regulations, on its meat and produce.
However much the government in Bishkek sugarcoats it, Kyrgyzstan is joining the trade bloc at a much worse time than when talks first began some four years ago. Russia’s weakened ruble – reeling from low oil prices and Ukraine-related sanctions – has caused serious problems for domestic producers in both Belarus and Kazakhstan. Those countries are far more export-competitive than Kyrgyzstan, but still have failed to stem the flood of Russian imports without resorting to kneejerk trade bans that seem to violate the very essence of the EEU integration project.
In Kyrgyzstan’s case, as a World Trade Organization member, it additionally will be forced to renegotiate its relationship with major trading partner and neighbor China. Prices for consumer goods, which currently come largely from China, are expected to rise sharply, as are infrastructure and investment projects that depend on inputs from beyond the bloc’s borders.
So, surely few gamblers (ignoring that the government officially banned bookmakers shops on April 29) would wager serious money on Kyrgyzstan being a full-fledged EEU member by the end of May.
Chris Rickleton is a journalist based in Almaty.