Russia wants to turn a newly minted Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan into its major vehicle for post-Soviet economic integration in Central Eurasia.
The customs union will unite three states with combined GDP of $2 trillion, and $900 billion in mutual trade turnover, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev said. The group could emerge as a major oil and grain exporter, he predicted. Initial projections show the customs union can enhance Russian trade turnover by up to $400 billion, while Kazakhstan and Belarus could each gain upwards of $16 billion in additional trade revenue, according to Nazarbayev.
The Kremlin has long been urging all other EEC members to join. Kyrgyzstan has applied to join the customs union while Tajikistan also indicated interest in entering the trade group.
Meanwhile, some experts suggested that the customs union could act as a vehicle for the development of protectionist policies. It could help protect domestic producers from an “obvious economic expansion of third countries,” argued Vladimir Yevseyev, researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations.