“A few days ago, the leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries held a video conference and discussed the possibility of removing all trade barriers in the post-Soviet space. Vasily Koltashov, Head of the Center for Political Economic Research, Institute of the New Society, told the Russian Bureau of Report.
“Azerbaijan, without any doubt, is interested in creating a free trade system in the CIS, when all existing trade restrictions are removed. Azerbaijan’s economy is relatively small and located at the intersection of trade routes. Azerbaijan has larger economies nearby; access to those markets is extremely profitable for the country.”
According to the expert, the situation is somehow doubtful: “However, the creation of a free trade system within the CIS, with or without Ukraine’s participation, is now improbable. The point is not just the contradictions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno – Karabakh, but the regime of the complete elimination of restrictions is unlikely to be profitable for Russia. It is clear that removing barriers and reducing protectionism, which has been increasing in Russia in recent years, is beneficial to neighbor countries. But this is not profitable for domestic producers, who are well aware that neighboring economies with their focus on foreign markets will take away the profit that is already very difficult to get in the current crisis conditions.”
“Therefore, the free trade regime in the CIS is possible under the following conditions: If more organized, strict, and manageable protectionism is extended to the entire CIS zone. And customs barriers for foreign competitors are solid and impervious to smuggling. When this market becomes an internal market concerning this customs system, we can talk about free trade. Everything else is unrealizable since the time of so-called “free trade” has passed in the world economy. It is time for the protectionism, regionalization, and fierce competition. So, the negotiations will not change anything,” concluded Vasily Koltashov.