During the meeting at the Hilton Hotel, Gui de Vaucleroy, President of the Federation of Belgian Companies, said that Belgian business saw positive results of the past two years of economic and political stabilisation in Russia, which had brought faster rates of industrial growth to the country. All that, he said, inspired confidence in Russia’s future and prompted a search for new investment and business opportunities in the Russian economy.
Mr Putin, in his speech, dealt with many topics of interest to Belgian business circles.
He noted that Russia would only join the WTO under normal terms and would not be forced to meet requirements that no one else had to comply with. The President expressed hope that European, including Belgian, business circles would assist this effort.
President Putin said he was in favour of increasing payments in euros between Russian and European companies, noting that Europe accounted for more than 40% of Russian foreign trade.
Russia, the President said, would build bilateral trade and economic relations in accordance with the interests of a united Europe. He recalled that at the May Russia-EU summit, the European Union had come up with a proposal on creating a common European economic space that would include Russia. Russia expects, Mr Putin said, that at the concluding stage of its European Union presidency Belgium would actively promote cooperation between Russia and the EU.
The President expressed regret that Belgian companies invested relatively little in the Russian market, and that their total capital expenditures were a mere $154 million.
In his opinion, the best areas for cooperation with Belgium were metal manufacturing, construction, the aerospace industry, military technology and food equipment. Mr Putin called on Belgian businessmen to be more active in Russia.
According to the President, the main purpose of the reforms undertaken by the country’s leadership was to deregulate business and to combat the causes of corruption. Russia today had all the basic laws necessary to allow the market economy to breathe freely, the President emphasised. He also mentioned a wide-ranging reform of the Russian banking system.
The President also pointed to the significance attached in Russia to the development of education and the promotion of fundamental science. This approach, he stressed, was based on the fact that in the modern world the intellectual component of economics and production was growing.