The Customs Union delegation at the talks is headed by the Eurasian Economic Commission minister of trade, Andrey Slepnev. It also includes representatives of the Eurasian Economic Commission and of the relevant ministries of the Customs Union member states.

"We hope to develop a modern free trade zone agreement that would regulate not only trade in goods but also in services, would set access to investment markets and opportunities for taking part in large-scale state infrastructure projects," Andrey Slepnev said.

"A new centre of production and demand is developing in the Asia-Pacific region and Customs Union member states need to enter these markets and develop trade with Asia-Pacific countries. We have had many years of fruitful cooperation with Vietnam, that is why Vietnam has become the first country in that region with which we are launching this dialogue," he added.

"In 2012, APEC countries accounted for about 27 percent of the Customs Union's foreign trade, without oil and gas," Slepnev continued.

In December 2012, the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, at the level of the heads of state of the Customs Union member states, instructed the sides, together with the Eurasian Economic Commission, to hold talks on signing a free trade zone agreement with Vietnam.

The announcement that the sides were ready to start the talks in 2013 was made at the APEC summit in Vladivostok.

A joint research group successfully completed its work last year. Its findings indicate that there is a substantial potential for developing trade and economic relations between Vietnam and the Customs Union member states if a free trade zone is created.

The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) was set up in late 2011 by the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan as a single working regulatory body of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space.

At the moment, it comprises these three countries, with two more countries likely to join.

The EEC has the status of a supranational regulatory body. It is not subordinated to any of the national governments. The commission's decisions are compulsory for the three countries.

The EEC's main task is to ensure the operation and development of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space and to draw up proposals for further integration.

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