The meeting was held in a working dinner format.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends, colleagues,
It is a pleasure to meet again with my friends from the Netherlands, which is one of our most important, respected and valued partner.
Only last year, trade grew by 20% — it amounts to an impressive $82 billion, which is a significant achievement.
I think it is symbolic that the venue for our meeting is the Maritime Museum. It was here that Peter the Great studied shipbuilding. We just paid a visit to the library next door, and the director told us that Peter used to look at the nearby shipyard and its ships from one of this building’s windows. I am telling you all this because it was then, thanks to Peter’s good graces – though they say his graces weren’t always good – that the process began which did turn out rather well. I am referring to the development of our centuries-long multi-dimensional relations.
Over that period, Russia and the Netherlands have gained substantial experience of cooperation in the energy sector. I have already mentioned this at the news conference: we have been jointly implementing such major landmark projects as Nord Stream, Sakhalin-2 and Bergermeer. Russian energy giants like Gazprom, LUKOIL, Sovkomflot and Atomenergomash, almost all of which are represented here, are working successfully with Dutch partners.
”The Netherlands is one of our most important, respected and valued partner. Only last year, trade grew by 20%, which is a significant achievement.“
Bilateral economic cooperation is constantly expanding, including through high-tech and innovative projects. I am pleased to note that we have a long-standing good relationship with Philips, which is increasing its presence in Russia and has already built several businesses. I hope that we have not realised all of our potential yet and will continue to develop multifaceted cooperation in high technology industries. We are doing everything in our power to create favourable conditions for this work.
The Economic Development Minister corrected me earlier in that our GDP growth last year was 3.4% rather than 3.2%, but that is still a decent figure in the current climate and it creates a stable business environment. Our sovereign debt is moderate, or even minimal: we owe 2.5% to our foreign creditors, and a little more than 10% in total. Unemployment remains low at 5.5%.
Our gold and foreign currency reserves are growing, which creates a good environment for the development of foreign trade and gives us a safety cushion. Incidentally, even if we take IMF's criteria for the gold reserves required to successfully carry out foreign trade, our reserves are 100–200% bigger than what IMF requires. Standard is to have sufficient reserves for three months, and we have enough for more than a year, which is several times more than the IMF standard.
Trade is developing successfully. Last year it amounted to $865 billion, and the trade surplus reached a record amount of $195 billion.
We are doing everything possible to improve the business climate in Russia. Russian business leaders know this well because they were involved in creating the roadmap for improving the business climate in our country. There are probably things that we haven’t done yet. I should say definitely, rather that probably, there is still work to do but we are moving in that direction, and our partners in international financial organisations have noticed this, and Russia has moved up in the rankings.
We have established a Customs Union together with our partners from Kazakhstan and Belarus, and I think that is a positive sign for all of our partners in Europe, including the Netherlands. The market of 165 million consumers in three countries has begun to operate according to the WTO principles. Russia has joined the WTO, but Kazakhstan and Belarus have not. However, the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space we have created operate on the WTO principles. We have done this for your benefit as well. I am sure that it has become easier for our Dutch partners to work in the market in all three countries, despite the fact that Kazakhstan and Belarus have not acceded to the WTO yet.
That is all I wanted to say at the beginning. My colleagues from the Russian Government and I are at your disposal. We will be happy to answer your questions.