Excerpts from transcript of meeting with leaders of round-table discussions at First Russian Internet Economy Forum
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Overall, the Government views this sector very positively. At least, it tries. And everyone understands its significance. So we can agree with colleagues to even create some kind of special agency that will work on promoting these ideas, developing them. Apparently, we cannot implement everything immediately, today or tomorrow. So we need to do everything on time, so as not to slow down and lose something.
Just now, colleagues from Sberbank were saying that if they do not apply the appropriate instruments in a timely manner, they will lose up to 50% of their clients, because the competition, especially in the IT sector, in the use of opportunities offered by internet, is changing. And it is not changing in their favour, if they are slow to react. So let’s do this, I fully agree.
Vladimir Putin (On the legal aspects of operating in the IT sector): We cannot and will not place any of our partners or competitors in conditions that are worse than our participants, Russian operators, Russian businesses working in this sector. But, of course, nobody should use the benefits and advantages that result from under-regulation in our nation. Here, I completely agree with you. But what our partners and competitors are doing, using the so-called loopholes in our legislation, is quite natural. That happens throughout the world; people take advantage of what we failed to properly regulate.
Here is the most recent example: our talks with the European Union and Ukraine on Ukraine’s accession, essentially, to the EU’s free trade zone. Yesterday, a sort of final talks were held in Brussels, although I hope they will not be final. It all comes down to several issues: we must (for some reason, we must) adopt the European system of phytosanitary control. This will mean – because we cannot do this in one go – that none of our agricultural products will be permitted in the Ukrainian market. At the same time, if zero customs fees remain in place between the EU and Ukraine and between us and Ukraine all European products will go to the Ukrainian market, replacing our products, and to our market. That’s it. We say, “How is that possible? This requires time and a negotiation process.” And they say, “No, that’s the only way.” That’s agriculture.
Manufacturing. We must adopt the European system of technical regulation and technical standards. We say, “Listen, in order to adopt your system of technical standards, we need to upgrade our equipment to produce goods of that quality. This takes time and hundreds of millions or billions of euros in investments. It requires time, although some of your standards are better. But we cannot close our companies today and throw their employees out on the street. Or lose that Ukrainian market.” They say, “Well, let’s think about it, but this is how it will be today.” There is a transition period for only two or three sectors, or even just one; and it’s not for 10 years, as we have requested, but rather, eighteen months, or even less.
The country of origin of goods is a highly important question. Large-scale assembly will occur in Ukraine and this entire flow will pour into our nation, in any sector. That is obvious. But we need to develop a system that will provide a clear understanding, an answer to the question of where the goods come from. And to do that, we need to have the customs agencies work properly. “No, if you are concerned about something, let us know and we will think about it.” When our negotiators raised the issue in an entirely concrete, fundamental way, what did our partners do? The head of the EU delegation said, “Game is over!” Then she got up and left. And they issued a press release today stating that the Russian delegation derailed negotiations. I think that this is not very European, it is not tolerant at all; but I think that we will return to this issue many more times. We want to establish relations with our partners on this matter – with Ukraine and the European Union.
And on the topic you touched on, we need to do things right, in a timely manner, transparently, and of course fully; everyone should be operating under equal conditions. Let’s do exactly that; I just ask that you state everything as you see it.
Vladimir Putin (On offering to declare 2016 or 2017 the Year of Information Technologies): It’s a good idea. We have many suggestions on how to designate the upcoming years, 2016 and 2017. It is certainly a good idea. I will ask my colleagues in the Presidential Executive Office and the Cabinet to think about it. This is certainly one of the leading trends.