Russia Forms Trade Bloc with Belarus and Kazakhstan

As Bloomberg reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty with his counterparts from Kazakhstan and Belarus creating a trading bloc.

Russian President Vladimir Putin –  facing sanctions from the U.S. and EU for his annexation of Crimea from Ukraine –  said the three countries will “gradually align” their currency and monetary policies to facilitate trade and minimize risks.

The union, effective from the start of 2015, is intended to yield a free flow of goods, capital and workers, and will level tariff and non-tariff regulations.

The Russian leader has pushed for Ukrainian membership in the union and, before relations soured with the EU, urged the creation of a free-trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean.

Russia signed a separate protocol conceding $1.5 billion of oil revenue to Belarus, or about about half the export duties the smaller country levies on oil products made from Russian crude next year. Under the current rules, Belarus returns all such export duties to Russia. Belarus may be able to keep more for its budget when the countries revise the numbers in 2016.

Kyrgyzstan and Armenia are seeking to join the union by the end of the year, the countries’ leaders said at the signing ceremony.

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