The meeting’s agenda included summing up the results of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries in 2016, as well as cooperation prospects in machine building and the agro-industrial complex, and the operation of Union State bodies. A number of decisions were adopted at the meeting. In particular, adopted were resolutions On Preserving the Potential of the Machine-Building Complex of the Union State, On Cooperation in the Agro-Industrial Complex of the Union State, and on progress in implementing previously approved programmes and resolutions.
* * *
Speeches at the meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Putin, members of the Supreme State Council,
Today we are holding the most relevant and large-scale events in our bilateral relations: the meeting of the Supreme State Council and the Forum of Regions. The large number of representatives of major enterprises and organisations from Belarus and Russia present here today is evidence of the close ties between our two brotherly peoples and a demonstration of our shared focus on further strengthening the political and economic partnership.
Before we move on to the main discussion, I would like to note that previously in St Petersburg we agreed in principle on the approaches to bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas sector until 2025. I expect continued constructive cooperation between our industry ministries regarding the formation of a common market of gas, oil and petroleum products within the Eurasian Economic Union.
One of the central items on our agenda is industrial cooperation and agriculture. We agreed, when considering the agenda in a restricted format, that there are nine issues, seven of which are almost completed and do not need to be discussed today. And we agreed to briefly take up two important issues at the meeting of the Supreme State Council, which our experts, our ministers and members of governments would like to discuss. These are industrial and agricultural issues.
As I have said, today’s agenda includes nine issues. We propose passing resolutions on seven of them without discussion, as they are not of serious conceptual significance, and discussing the remaining two issues and passing decisions on them.
Any comments or suggestions on the agenda itself? Maybe some changes or additions? That takes care of the agenda.
Now for the second question. We are resolving seven issues based on the proposal of the Council of Ministers, as they are on the agenda, without discussion. And we are discussing two issues, the first and the second, and passing decisions on them. No objections? Just to save time.
As for the standing orders of our work. We will not set any time limits. However, please try to keep your reports to seven or eight minutes, because these matters were also considered in the Union Council of Ministers. Do you agree? Will seven or eight minutes be enough? That is enough. If anyone wants to speak on some matter, you will have one to two minutes.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Just before this meeting, we met in a restricted format. As you know, we discussed topical matters on the bilateral agenda, including those raised at the Fourth Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions.
Over the two decades since the establishment of the Union State, we have succeed in forging close trade and economic ties, strengthening cooperation in research, technology, education, culture and other areas.
Russia remains a major trade partner for Belarus, and accounts for more than half, or 51.2 percent to be more precise, of Belarus’ foreign trade. At the same time, Belarus is Russia’s largest trade partner within the CIS, and the fourth largest globally, behind China, Germany and The Netherlands.
In January-April of this year, for the first time in several years, we managed to considerably increase our trade– by 26.6 percent. Belarus is the CIS leader in Russian capital investment as well. In 2016, it amounted to $4 billion, including $2.5 billion in direct investment.
Obviously, we have reserves for returning our trade to a stable growth trajectory and restoring the rates of the Union State’s economic development. To achieve this we must continue implementing large infrastructure projects, improving the business climate, removing the remaining trade and investment barriers between our economies and conducting a coordinated economic policy. At our restricted format meeting, we paid special attention to these bottlenecks, and we have not yet resolved all issues. However, if we do this, and we will be moving in this direction, our producers will of course be able to compete with world leaders on equal terms.
Today we also discussed strengthening cooperation in machine building and agriculture, and we will continue paying priority attention to them.
We believe that in machine building we must increase our own capacities as well as the manufacture of high-demand science-intensive products, provide every support to promising projects and initiatives, and promote jointly produced goods in foreign markets.
In agriculture, we must be more active in introducing advanced technology and continue building modern livestock complexes. We discussed some of these issues today, and Mr Lukashenko mentioned a number of problems. We must pay greater attention to breeding and genetic centres and build up the export potential of our countries’ agricultural complex.
Two years ago, a programme document was approved – Priority Areas for Further Development of the Union State in the Medium Term (2014–2017). Its goals have generally been achieved. We managed to consolidate the positive trend in our bilateral integration processes; much has been done in the sphere of migration, harmonisation of legislation in the antimonopoly, monetary and taxation areas, and the development of cultural contacts. In 2018–2022, we will continue to pay special attention to ensuring equal terms for doing business in Russia and Belarus, as well as ensuring that our companies and enterprises have access to each other's markets.
Another issue that we considered was the implementation of the Union State’s 2011–2015 Social Development Concept. This line of work is important, because joint programmes in the social sphere help citizens of Russia and Belarus feel the tangible results of union integration.
Also notable is the fact that working citizens of our countries received temporary disability and maternity benefits over the reporting period. The procedures for calculating and paying pensions have been simplified. And residents of Belarus are now able to use their national driving licenses for the purposes of employment and conducting business in the Russian Federation.
Our countries have been effectively implementing the 2016–2017 Programme of Joint Actions in the Sphere of Foreign Policy, as true allies should.
With regard to the Union State Border Committee, we supported the proposal of our Belarusian friends and had Anatoly Lappo, the head of the State Border Committee of Belarus, appointed to this important position. I believe there is no need to remind anyone how important this service is for the effective formation of the single migration and visa space of the Union State, and the implementation of the corresponding Action Plan approved by the Union Council of Ministers in St Petersburg on April 16.
In closing, I would like to emphasise once again that mutually beneficial and equitable integration with Belarus within the Union State is one of Russia’s strategic priorities. This is also enshrined in Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept approved in November 2016.
Alexander Lukashenko: Thank you, Mr President.
Friends, members of the Supreme State Council, meeting participants,
Today we have approved important documents for advancing the Union's integration. We hope that the decisions we have adopted and the agreements we have reached will intensify the continued development of the entire range of bilateral relations. The main result of our work is that we have affirmed our readiness to continue constructive dialogue and address the most pressing issues in all areas of our cooperation.
Our states intend to fully realise the Union's potential to ensure sustainable development and higher living standards for our peoples.
Allow me, on behalf of the Supreme State Council, to thank all the participants for their active work to prepare today's session, for the constructive atmosphere of the restricted format meetings and the meeting of the Supreme State Council, and, in particular, as I already mentioned at the Forum, the speakers of the upper houses of our parliaments, Valentina Matviyenko and Mikhail Myasnikovich, for the wonderful organisation of the Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions.
I would like to use the occasion to fulfil the request of Belarusian MPs – they asked me to do it publicly, and I have already told the President of Russia about this– and thank Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin for the serious approach to matters pertaining to the construction of the Union State.
The agenda has been exhausted. Those who wished to speak have spoken. Allow me, on behalf of the members of the Supreme State Council, to thank you and to proceed to the signing of the documents.
Thank you all.