PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to begin by welcoming everyone here. We are running a little bit late, but let me assure you, this is because we were working, as the President of the Russian Federation and the President of the United States do not meet that often.
Furthermore, President Obama has had a very busy day, and even this meeting with business leaders is not the last item on his agenda today.
It is my pleasure to make a few remarks. I will begin by saying that just recently, about a month ago, I met with many of the people present here today at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. I am certain that some good discussions were held there, and I’m sure that the discussions here today will also lead to practical results.
I think that nearly all the issues we needed to discuss have been brought up, but still I feel that it is my duty to make a few general remarks.
I would like to say that the United States of America is our nation’s long-standing and promising partner, a partner with whom we have many plans that have not yet been implemented. Even the difficulties that have existed between our states in the past and the affects of the crisis have not decreased the desire of our businesspeople to work on joint projects, which is wonderful.
Last year, as you recall, we had exceptional results in trade turnover between our two countries, although I would like to emphasis again that those figures could have been even higher. This year, we have had somewhat of a slowdown, but we can ensure that this slowdown is not extreme, so that cooperation between our nations accelerates in a variety of areas.
During our first meeting in London, the President and I made a joint statement that highlighted the need for new momentum in our trade and economic relations, expressing our unified stance that business leaders from both countries should use every opportunity to generate economic activity. The fact that so many businesspeople are present here today and that our business community is so widely represented serves as direct evidence of those opportunities.
I must mention that in terms of cooperation, at some moment the Russian and U.S. business communities were well ahead of the official organizations, especially in few recent years. Over the last several days, we have tried to fill in those gaps, and yesterday, as you know, we created the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. The Commission addresses a variety of issues in cooperation, first and foremost through working groups that will work under the guidance of the ministers present here today. I think it is very good that the working group on developing trade, economic, investment, and business relations will be headed by Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.
Yesterday, we devoted a lot of time to discussing economics, though perhaps not as much as issues of global development and nuclear disarmament. Still, we had a productive discussion, and we feel that it is important to maintain positive attitudes within the business communities in our countries.
We also discussed some fairly practical issues. President Obama asked me whether Russia will be joining the World Trade Organization. You already provided Russia’s answer at this forum. I would like to state again, on behalf of our nation, that we will be joining the World Trade Organization. And we will do this with consideration of the progress that has been made in recent years.
The format may change, and we may need some additional agreements, but we do not want to lose any of the ground that we have gained in the last few years. The road turned out to be long and difficult, and quite frankly, we are a little tired of it, as we have been waiting for sixteen years. But we will hope that some reformatting will allow us to come to an arrangement as quickly as possible.
Investment is very important, and we fully welcome the diversification of American investments in our country. In addition to investing in the oil and gas sector where they already have some presence, we would very much like for our American partners to invest in other sectors as well: traditional Russian industries, as well as the high-tech sector. One of our topics of discussion was environmentally clean projects and a green economy. I feel that in this regard, we have some excellent opportunities to cooperate, and after this visit, President Obama and I will continue discussing these issues at the G8 summit in Italy.
I must also mention another positive event that took place today: the launch of a joint venture between VSMPO-AVISMA Corporation and the Boeing Company. This is a very good project.
Yesterday, I was talking to President Obama about the possibility of building cooperation in new directions in the transport sector; in particular, I brought up the idea of creating a large transport airplane. This was just an example, and it does not mean that we should definitely focus on this sector, but there are multiple possibilities of this kind, and they represent areas where we can work together.
American companies have a lot of potential. I know that the John Deere company has plans to begin production of agricultural equipment, and a factory is already being built in Kaluga. Indeed, this company was one of the first to supply tractors to our nation in pre-revolutionary times, and then during the Soviet era.
We have other examples of investment cooperation. Fifty years have passed since Don Kendall treated Nikita Khrushchev to some Pepsi-Cola, and we have been drinking it for nearly forty years. This may be a rather basic example, but it, too, demonstrates the possibilities for normal cooperation, which we are seeing more of, and soon there will be new production facilities launched Russia.
Why am I bringing this up? Because during a difficult period in Russian-U.S. relations, we began to pay less attention to some truly positive examples of Russian-American business dialogue and existing large-scale joint projects. But in fact, we should consider this to be our responsibility. Thus, the new formats of cooperation, the new initiatives, and the new administrative mechanisms that Mr President and I created yesterday will surely help.
So I would like to invite all our American colleagues to engage in broad cooperation with Russian businesses. I hope that my colleagues, who are present today, have already said the same thing. I am certain that by having stronger, more stable business contacts, it will become easier for us to discuss all other issues, including the most complicated issues in international affairs and in our bilateral relations. Thus, we sincerely hope that your dialogue will be successful.
Thank you for inviting us.
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES BARACK OBAMA: Good afternoon. It is a great privilege to join all of you today with President Medvedev. From our first meeting at the G20 summit in London to our discussions here in Moscow, President Medvedev’s leadership has been critical to new progress in U.S-Russian relations. And the fact that he has experience in business, in the private sector, makes him an invaluable ally in our efforts to improve the commercial ties between our two countries.
I want to thank our ambassador, John Beryle, for all the work that he does here in Moscow. And I want to thank all the organizations that helped to bring us here today: the U.S.-Russia Business Council, the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Business Russia, and so many others.
All of you are part of a long line of commerce and trade between our peoples. Russia and the U.S. first established diplomatic relations more than 200 years ago. But before we ever exchanged ambassadors, we exchanged goods. Along the way you gave us a pretty good deal on Alaska. Even during a long Cold War, trade endured – American grains, Russian raw materials. And in recent years, Russian-American trade surged.
So I want to thank all of you for your outstanding ideas on how our two countries can deepen these ties even further, with new trade and investments that will create new jobs and prosperity for people in our countries. This was a key message of the speech that I just delivered this morning at the New Economic School, where you’ve got some of the most talented young people in Russia studying business and economics, recognizing that the future of Russia is intimately wrapped up with commerce.
Now, I’ve called for a “reset” in relations between Russia and the United States, but this can’t just be a matter of two presidents – it has to go deeper. It has to be between our people. It has to be more than just security or dismantling weapons. It has to be about our common prosperity – the jobs we create, the innovation we unleash, the industries that we build.
And that’s why I made it very clear: America seeks a prosperous Russia that partners with us on a broad range of issues. We want Russia to be selling us goods and we want Russia to be buying goods from us. And that’s why we’ve created a U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission to explore new opportunities for partnership.
Now, many of you here are part of this important work, and I want to thank you. And I also want to thank our commission co-chairs for their leadership, and I am confident that they are going to do an outstanding job – our Minister Nabiullina and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. They both bring a long track record of forging trade relationships and creating jobs in the 21st century – in agriculture, in health, in energy, science and technology.
Our commission reflects a fundamental truth of the global economy, and that is that prosperity is shared. When Russia buys aircraft from U.S. aerospace companies, that sustains jobs in America. When an American soda company opens a new bottling plant outside of Moscow, that creates jobs for Russians. When our economies grow more intertwined, all of us can make progress.
But if the opportunities of our global economy are shared, so are the risks. Reckless speculation of bankers in one country reverberates on the floor of the Moscow Stock Exchange. A contracting global economy and shrinking trade means closed factories and lost jobs from North America to northern Russia.
So our fortunes are linked, and yet so much potential remains untapped. I said that we have made progress, but consider this: Total trade between our countries is just $36 billion. Our trade – America’s trade with Russia is only about 1 percent of all our trade with the world – 1 percent – a percent that’s virtually unchanged since the Cold War. And that $36 billion is about the same as our trade with Thailand, a country with less than half the population of Russia. Surely we can do better.
In fact, Russia and the United States are natural economic partners: between us, we’re a market of some 440 million consumers, including Russia’s growing middle class. There’s Russia’s skilled workers, vast scientific establishment, and natural resources. On the other hand, there’s American leadership in high-tech, manufacturing, agriculture and capital. So we need to make it easier for American companies to invest in Russia and make it easier for Russian companies to invest in the United States.
There are so many opportunities for cooperation, some of which have already been mentioned. But in order to achieve this better future, we’re going to have to do some work, and some of the areas where our governments are going to have to do work have already been mentioned. We have to promote transparency, accountability, rule of law on which investments and economic growth depend. And so I welcome very much President Medvedev’s initiatives to promote the rule of law and ensure a mature and effective legal system as a condition for sustained economic growth.
We also have to work on bureaucracy. The small example that was just mentioned I’m sure is costing millions, billions, cumulatively over time, of lost opportunities and spent person hours – unnecessarily because we simply haven’t updated our laws. Russian and American collaboration could unleash opportunities and prosperity across a whole range of endeavors: from agriculture to aerospace, from green construction to clean energy, from transportation to telecommunications – if we seize this moment, if we work together.
Now, government can promote this cooperation. We can help to get out of the way. And we will. But ultimately, individual entrepreneurs and businesses have to advance the agenda. And I commend you for being here to do precisely that, because entrepreneurship and innovation are among the greatest forces in human history when it comes to progress and prosperity. It’s our workers, it’s our people, it’s our ideas, who are the greatest engines of economic resource. It will be with their skills and talent that ultimately will determine the fate of nations in the 21st century, not simply the bountiful natural resources that both America and Russia share.
I’m told there’s a Russian proverb that says, “Every seed knows its time.” So today, I hope that we’ve planted a seed – a seed of new cooperation and new commerce. And now we must do the work of seeing that that seed grows into a relationship that advances prosperity for our peoples.
So thank you very much for gathering in that spirit. Thank you for your commitment to progress. We need to grow this economy, and we’re going to be able to do it faster and more effectively if we’re doing it together. Thank you very much.