President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, welcome everyone.
I suggest we immediately get down to your questions without any statements from me because President of China, Mr Xi Jinping has just reported at the news conference on the progress and the results of our work today. So, please, if there are any specific questions for me, go ahead.
Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. You have already said that the results on China have been summed up. You visit China every year, this year it was a state visit, of the highest status. Much has been said during your visits to the three Chinese cities, but have you highlighted anything for yourself as most important?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, we reaffirmed that our relations with China are on a very high level; we agreed and signed a corresponding declaration with President Xi Jinping on further cooperation on the political track, and on dealing with various threats.
I must also note that this confirmation was of vital importance, because with all the current issues piling up, we still should not lose sight of the main avenues of our cooperation. One of them is our interaction in the international arena, particularly in international organisations such as the UN, the G20, the BRICS, the SCO and others.
That is, the very fact that we have reaffirmed the high level of our interaction and talked about the need for its development, in my opinion, is of great importance for present-day international relations and for Russia-China ties. That is the first thing.
The second thing concerns the political sphere.
As for economic issues, here I would single out the feasibility study for a broad Eurasian economic partnership that we signed. It will take some time before the treaty itself can be signed. This still requires more work, but this is the first serious step towards organising a major regional economic union.
As I said many times, it is certainly compatible with both the EAEU we are developing and the Chinese Belt and Road initiative in its economic dimension. Therefore, I believe it is a very important step in building our relations. All this undoubtedly fits in with the vigorous development of mutual trade – reaching 87 billion last year.
I am confident that if this continues, and this is obviously the case, at least we have shown significant growth in trade for the first quarter, we can probably reach 100 billion dollars by yearend.
Question: Mr President, how do you assess the SCO's efficiency with its current expanded membership of eight states? What do you think of the potential expansion of the Organisation?
Vladimir Putin: As for the SCO's efficiency in its expanded membership, it does not cause any doubts. I understand perfectly well what you mean when you talk about efficiency. You know, neighbouring countries often have issues that require additional attention from the leadership of these countries, problems that need to be addressed. This is quite natural and normal. Organisations like the SCO are created so that they would have platforms for resolving these complex problems.
Strictly speaking, the SCO was created, as I have said many times, to resolve border issues between China and the newly formed states from both sides of the border. All these issues have been successfully resolved, as you know, including the signing of the Border Agreement between Russia and China. I would like to emphasise that until then, they had negotiated it for 40 years. Then the SCO was established, and gradually, this platform helped us to resolve those border issues. The same with other countries in the region.
True, there is a problem, but organisations like the SCO are created precisely to solve these kinds of problems. Therefore, I welcome the fact that we agreed in the end to expand the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation by adding India and Pakistan. I hope that all the countries of the region will use this Organisation for in-depth work in a multilateral format, and to resolve bilateral issues.
As for expansion, we agreed that the current structure is optimal. We will have to look at how the Organisation will fare in this expanded format. You are right; it was only the first meeting with India and Pakistan as full members.
We need to see how it works, and then together with our colleagues, we will analyze this work and decide on further steps regarding the expansion of the Organisation.
Question: Mr President, there is real drama unfolding around the G7 summit in Quebec and inside the G7 itself: disagreements over Russia’s possible return, over tariffs, and more controversy. In this regard, how do you assess the proposal made by Trump and the Italian Prime Minister on Russia’s return to the format, given that the purchasing power parity in the SCO is actually higher than in the G7?
Vladimir Putin: As for Russia’s return to the G7, or G8 – we have never withdrawn from it. Our colleagues refused to come to Russia at some point for well-known reasons. We would be happy to see everyone in Moscow, they are welcome. That is first the first thing.
Second. As for the efficiency and volume of the economy, indeed, the purchasing power parity (this is IMF data) of the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is already higher than in the G7 countries. Yes, it is, the PPP is higher.
True, the seven are still richer in per capita income, as they say, but the SCO economies are larger, and their population is much larger, too – half the world's population.
As for the various difficulties in the negotiation process within the G7, I need to take a look at this, I do not know the details. Of course, this is also of interest, these are the largest economies in the world.
We can see that there are internal problems there. Well, it happens. You know, when I look at our debates in the EAEU, we also have disputes and do not unanimously sign everything at the same time. I think this is common practice. It is necessary to deal with this calmly and without any irony.
I would draw attention to one more circumstance, which, in my opinion, is more significant than any emotional outbursts. What do I mean? As far as I know, the President of the United States said the US is considering the possibility of regulating the additional supply of automotive equipment in the US market.
This is a serious matter. This can really hurt the economic interests of so many countries, above all European, of course. Well, let us see how things will really unfold. This is of significant importance for the entire world economy.
On the other hand, it could be noted that there is one more group where practically all countries – both the SCO and the G7 members – meet to discuss common issues. I am referring to the G20. By the way, if we talk about the results of the SCO's work, I would say that alongside terrorism and security issues, which are in the focus of our attention, we reaffirmed today – and President Xi Jinping also said it at a meeting with the press in a statement – we reaffirmed our willingness to adhere to the generally accepted and formulated rules of international trade.
I think that in today's difficult situation, this is a very important statement, which, I hope, will help stabilise our joint activities in this area.
Question: Allow me to return to the G7 issue. At the end of the summit, a communiqué was adopted, and a number of statements, including those urging Russia to discontinue its destabilising policies. Could you comment on these statements following the G7 summit?
Vladimir Putin: No, I could not. I do not actually think it is part of my job to comment on everything that happens at the G7. As for those destabilising actions, just as with regard to some other events, everyone has shown solidarity with London over the Salisbury events, but yet again nothing specific was said.
What they said was that this event happened with a high degree of probability. Solidarity on this issue arises on some very unsteady ground. It seems to me that we must abandon all this creative chatter and turn specifically to issues of real cooperation.
Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. You spoke yesterday with the President of Ukraine Pyotr Poroshenko. Could you tell us, please, if you got any actual interest on his part in the implementation of the Minsk Agreements?
And another question. Have you reached any agreement on the extradition of Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky? If yes, when? Or will there be an exchange?
Vladimir Putin: Since that conversation was Ukraine’s initiative, I think this fact already shows their interest in an agreement. At least I really hope so.
We discussed the issues of extradition of people who are detained on both sides, and discussed the case of the Russian journalist, this at my initiative. It is too early now to say how this issue will be resolved, so I would refrain from commenting to avoid more problems.
Question: The issue is not quite on the agenda of the SCO summit, neither about the G8. Alexander Ovechkin won the Stanley Cup. That was while we were in China. Did you watch the game? Did you support him? Have you called him? In America, there is a tradition – winning hockey players visit the President at the White House. Is it possible to arrange a meeting (we have three champions: Kuznetsov, Orlov, Ovechkin) with you? What would you talk to them about, how would it go?
Vladimir Putin: Sasha and I are good friends. He even said he might return to Russia to play here. But his contractual obligations prevented him from doing so. In fact, maybe it is not bad for his personal career, because he has now finally won the Stanley Cup.
I congratulate him, as well as the whole team he plays with; this is a great achievement for any team in world hockey. As for the meeting, we meet regularly. We met even before he won the Stanley Cup.
Question: But did you watch?
Vladimir Putin: I did not, because I was busy working, as they say in such cases.
Question: There have been reports that Austria is ready to host the US-Russia summit between you and Donald Trump. Can you confirm this? Perhaps you discussed this when you were in Austria? And when will you meet with Trump? Everyone is looking forward to it. Many problems have accumulated.
Vladimir Putin: The President of the United States has repeatedly said that he considers this meeting expedient, and I agree that this is indeed the case. I can reiterate, in our last telephone conversation he expressed his concern about the threat of a new round of the arms race. I agree with him.
But to discuss this specifically, our respective foreign ministries need to work, and experts need to work very closely together. Personal meetings are certainly necessary as well. As soon as possible. As soon as the American side is ready, this meeting will be held immediately, depending on my work schedule.
About the location. We did not talk about this in detail, but many countries are willing to render such assistance to us, including several European countries, Austria among them. I have not heard anything else. But I think this is a technicality. What is important is that the meeting, if it takes place, is filled with specific content.
Question: Good afternoon. You signed the Qingdao Declaration, which presents a common vision for further cooperation. Please tell us, in your opinion, how is this being done in the SCO in the first place, and what does this mean for global governance?
Vladimir Putin: All this is connected with the original idea and proposal by President Xi Jinping regarding the Silk Road and its economic dimension. We, as you know, support this. We signed an agreement on the deepening of cooperation between China and the EAEU in Astana. This is one more step.
At the beginning of our meeting, I said that during my visit to China that has just taken place, we signed a feasibility study of the Eurasian economic partnership. All of that fits well into the wide-ranging and promising work in the huge Eurasian region.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisations countries, as I have already said – and as has been confirmed by the IMF – have a combined economy that has become larger than the G7 economies in Purchasing Power Parity. It means that we have tremendous prospects. If we also recall that the region’s economic growth rate is significantly higher than the world’s, then the prospects will look very good and very attractive for all nations.
We know about China’s record-high growth rates. I have just spoken to the Indian Prime Minister. India is currently showing a record growth of 7.7 percent. Thank God, Russia’s economy has resumed growth. It is a modest growth as of yet and is not comparable to China’s and India’s, but it is already in positive territory and will only go up, I have no doubt about that.
Therefore, for the global economy on the whole, with a regard of the fact that we once again reaffirmed our commitment today to free trade principles and fighting protectionism; all this is crucial for world trade and for the global economy.
As I answer your question, before we finish our meeting, I would like to express my gratitude to the Chinese people and the leaders of China, President Xi Jinping for an exceptionally warm reception, especially during my visit to the People’s Republic of China. Everything was on a high professional level, there is no other way to say this, everything was organised in a warm and friendly way, and was very effective.
Thank you very much. All the best.