The forum, attended by business leaders from Russia and Kazakhstan, focuses on expanding bilateral cooperation in trade and the economy.
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Speech at the Russia-Kazakhstan Business Forum
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Nazarbayev, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to say that it is always a pleasure to visit Astana because every time I can see how fast Kazakhstan’s capital is developing and how it is becoming more beautiful and interesting. We can see it, among other things, from the conditions in which we work today.
I would like to note that it was President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s initiative to hold this meeting. Despite the fact that there are many similar forums in Russia, Europe and the world, this meeting of Russian and Kazakhstani partners is, I believe, very important and may become a good tradition.
It should be noted that today in this hall we have heads of the largest companies, representatives of small and medium-sized businesses – everybody who is directly involved in our bilateral cooperation and trade and investment relations; who keeps their fingers on the pulse of the Eurasian economic integration.
As you know, today we had several sessions on expanding exports of non-primary products, eliminating administrative and infrastructure barriers for trade; development of a common transport and logistics infrastructure for the two countries.
There were many business-related talks, following which a substantial package of documents was signed or prepared for signing.
For Russia, Kazakhstan is a strategic partner and ally. Our cooperation has many aspects and covers numerous areas. It is gradually developing in all directions.
We enjoy a truly high level of bilateral trade and investment ties. Kazakhstan holds $9 billion of the Russian capital and has invested $3 billion in the Russian economy. Together, we created 6,000 companies and work alongside each other in almost all sectors of economy.
Last year alone, 150 delegations of Russian business people visited Kazakhstan.
We have joint projects in mining, machine engineering, shipbuilding, chemical production and agriculture.
Kazakhstan is Russia’s second largest trade partner within the CIS, which means there is still room for advancement.
In 2015, trade turnover totalled $15.5 billion. Yes, indeed, as the President of Kazakhstan noted today, trade has unfortunately declined, mainly due to various market factors, especially the continuing instability on global markets, exchange rate fluctuations and the high volatility of raw material prices. These are the obvious objective variables.
But even under such difficult conditions, we will continue to make efforts to restore bilateral trade growth with the help of both countries’ business communities. We will continue to promote the convergence of our economies, to create an environment that is conducive to launching new projects.
Russia and Kazakhstan have already achieved a lot in trade liberalisation. Together with other partners in the Eurasian Economic Union, we continue to eliminate restrictions that can obstruct the movement of goods, services, capital and the workforce; but there are more to deal with.
I just mentioned to Mr Nazarbayev that yesterday I met with Russian business representatives in Orenburg; the governor is also here. There seem to be things that we thought had long since been eliminated – I am referring to infrastructure issues that are essential for the movement of most goods, services and capital, the basic things related to the border crossing. You would think there is no border, but it still exists, along with the resulting impediments, including infrastructure problems.
Mr Nazarbayev knows, and we discussed this today during the meeting in restricted format: the road has been built on the Kazakhstan side, but unfortunately, not on the Russian side. The checkpoints are still bottlenecks and do not work the way they should, at full capacity. We need to discuss all of these issues and deal with them together.
We are implementing a programme of industrial and technical cooperation. Russia has started the process of coordinating the sectoral legislation. We are trying to simplify administrative procedures, create a common market with Kazakhstan for vehicle, rail, air and sea transport services.
We intend to provide significant financial support to joint Russian-Kazakh business initiatives, not only through national institutions like Russia’s Vnesheconombank and the Russian Industry Development Fund, but also through multilateral institutions, including the Eurasian Development Bank.
Mr Nazarbayev talked about recent progress in Kazakhstan. I would like to say a few words about what we have achieved in Russia.
Just like Kazakhstan, Russia continues to improve its business climate. We are also trying to attract more foreign investment and create a comfortable environment for foreign companies, including Kazakhstani companies, and reduce the tax and administrative burden. This year, we have introduced inspection exemptions for small businesses, in addition to the current four-year moratorium (until 2018) on tax increase.
We are taking measures to modernise industrial production and agriculture, to expand import replacement and local production. Kazakhstan has good opportunities there and it is using them. The range of products we could import in larger volumes is indeed growing.
As I said, we are modernising industrial production. Export companies receive direct support from the state. Russian Export Centre offers assistance with promoting competitive products in external markets. We expect that this year, this support will reach 200 companies, with reserved funds of up to $8 billion. We have launched a regional business climate ranking that helps investors choose the most attractive regions for capital investment.
The Russian Corporation for the Development of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses has launched a free electronic business navigator, which contains information on good options for opening a business in Russia, what products and services are in demand; what financial and property assistance is available to start-ups.
New prospects for joint projects launched in the country open opportunities for programmes of priority development, including in the Ural region, an area close to Kazakhstan. These programmes started last September. This region bordering Kazakhstan has a long tradition of close bilateral cooperation with the country and Kazakhstani business could be one of the first foreign investors to take advantage of this special economic zone.
Finally, I would like to stress that Russia intends to continue close relations with Kazakhstan and Kazakhstani partners. I am certain that by working together and with a purpose to develop national economies of the two countries and improve the quality of life of our citizens, we can succeed, without doubt.
Thank you very much.