Mr Katyrin reported to the President on the CCI’s performance and preparations for its 8th congress.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Katyrin, I know that preparations are underway for the next congress of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sergei Katyrin: Yes, Mr President.
This convention is quite a landmark event for us. In accordance with the CCI charter, we hold regular congresses every five years, so this, of course, is an event for which we are preparing very carefully. Naturally, we are summing up the results to report on what has been done over the past period, making plans for the next five years and electing the governing bodies.
Speaking of what has been done, Mr President, you attended the previous congress and made a number of suggestions. Among other things, we have been working on the implementation of those suggestions.
The first one was to develop a CCI system that would be as close to entrepreneurs as possible. You know that under the Law On Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the Russian Federation, we are the only association of entrepreneurs that not only unites them and represents their interests, but also provides services, including on behalf of the state, such as issuing certificates of origin of goods, confirming the goods were manufactured on Russian territory and so on.
We are now represented in more than 330 cities and municipalities in Russia; this is an opportunity to get as close to businesses as possible. We continue to work on this system and give the entrepreneurs an opportunity to get the services as close as possible and, accordingly, to use all the opportunities that chambers of commerce and industry can provide.
Law-making activity is the second highly important aspect for us and for entrepreneurs. We have 22 committees and 13 councils. These are public associations that involve entrepreneurs, administrators and researchers – those that work themselves and help us work in the sphere of law-making. Each year, we help pass over 100 bills and provide our findings on about 70 bills. We also draft about 15 of our own bills and duly submit them to the Government and the State Duma.
We have tried to organise this systemic work so as to collect information and requests from entrepreneurs all over the country. Consequently, one of our main tasks aimed to engage the entire country’s business in this law-making and regulatory work through a system of chambers and our local subsidiaries and offices.
We receive about 2,000 regulatory documents and assess their regulatory influence. Of course, not all sectors are represented here in Moscow; we do not produce coal or crude oil here. Therefore we regard it as very important for those regional representatives working directly in this sector to be able to tell us their viewpoint, so that we can convey it to those drafting various regulatory documents. We submit our findings accordingly.
I would like to say that, in this respect, we have reached mutual understanding with the Ministry of Economic Development, which organises this work, and with those agencies that draft various legal acts. We reach understanding in most cases, even when we do not support specific acts, and when we issue our comments and proposals on how, in our opinion, it would be better to formulate those documents.
Another aspect on which you also voiced your requests at the congress is the development of our international ties. Today, we have established 76 operational business councils with 76 countries. They involve representatives of the Russian business community and those from the relevant state. They compile materials, including those for inter-governmental commissions. They also work on specific projects that they support and on problems arising in economic ties with any specific country. This concerns customs regulations, phytosanitary control and many questions that are addressed to us. Our colleagues also make quite a few requests and proposals with regard to our foreign partners.
Our representatives are working in 41 countries, 10 of which are regional offices that are part of our regular operation, and the rest are our representatives emeritus who, on our behalf, protect, by proxy, our interests in a particular country. This is one of our major areas of operation as well.
We are working closely with the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Chambers Federation, and the Eurochambres. We have an advisory board of heads of chambers of the CIS countries and the Eurasian Union.
As per your instructions, we represent Russia’s interests in the SCO and BRICS’ business councils. This year we chaired them, just like all our departments. Our colleagues told us it was a success, but, unfortunately, we had to do this in digital format.
We do a lot to help the regions bring in investment and support investment projects in the regions, primarily, business projects.
We have broken it down into several areas of focus. First of all, we have organised and hold regular presentations of the regions at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Almost half of our regions took part in these presentations. We invite all diplomatic missions that have trade missions, foundations, banks, and Russian and foreign companies and we present a region, while the region provides an outline of its investment projects.
We also pick investment projects and present them to the industries that may be interested. We run presentations on agricultural projects, industry, and so on.
We believe we are doing quite well in our cooperation with the Industrial Development Fund. Out of all the development institutions, today, this is, perhaps, the most transparent institution for the entrepreneurs. We pick investment projects for it through our regional network, finalise them and present them accordingly. The majority of the projects gets the support of the expert council, the financing gets properly organised, and the projects then go ahead.
Another important field we are engaged in, and it is actually one you recommended us to expand, is the development of arbitration procedure. You know well that our arbitration courts are the oldest in Russia – the International Commercial Arbitration Court and the Maritime Arbitration Commission at the CCI. Last year, we marked the 90th anniversary of the Maritime Arbitration Commission. The International Commercial Arbitration Court is only two years younger.
Last time I reported to you that our International Commercial Arbitration Court annually hears more cases than the Stockholm or London courts. Only the court at the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris handles more cases than we do. And if we add arbitration proceedings between our regions, that will be many times more than our foreign colleagues deal with.
One-third of judges in the ICAC are our foreign partners, including those from the London and Stockholm courts. In turn, our colleagues are represented in the London and Stockholm courts. This makes the ICAC one of the most respected courts.
But, working on your instructions, we began to develop a network of regional branches and representative offices in order to expand and also move as close as possible to entrepreneurs. We have already opened ICAC branches in 19 regions of the Russian Federation, and one branch of the Maritime Arbitration Commission in St Petersburg, and are carrying on as planned. More than 250 arbitration cases between regions have already been considered by regional branches. That is, they have already started working. I cannot say they have reached full capacity, there is still potential available, but we also plan to develop the network.
Speaking of ICAC authority, I can say that – well, except 2020 of course, when we considered fewer, somewhere around 160 international cases – before that, we considered about 250 cases a year. Out of those, 10 percent, sometimes even more, were cases involving non-residents of the Russian Federation. Applicants from other countries come to our ICAC to sort out their problems, in a Russian court. This is proof of the court’s high prestige, and proves that it works quite effectively on such cases.
Mr President, I cannot help but mention our work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This came as a test for everyone, us included. Not only did we organise hotlines, but all our chambers started catering to the interests of entrepreneurs. We handled 120,000 entrepreneurs and consulted them on matters within our remit.
We received 80,000 requests for documents about force majeure circumstances and acts of God. This amounts to 80,000 document packages, not just requests but document packages, and we have to tell everyone why we can or cannot issue them.
We acted in strict compliance with the regulatory framework that exists in the country and in strict compliance with the decisions of the Supreme Court’s plenary session. Consequently, we were afraid to issue documents that might be refuted in court. Naturally, we have issued only 6,000 such certificates despite these numerous requests. This concerns domestic affairs and those between Russian enterprises. We received about 1,500 requests on foreign affairs, and we issued 500 certificates on force majeure circumstances, on acts of God and those dealing with international matters. We reviewed about 100 such requests during the pre-COVID period and issued about 10 to 20 such certificates. And now, we received 1,500 requests and issued 500 certificates. This, too, amounts to entire document packages.
We made a decision from the very beginning and issued all documents free of charge, although we had to maintain an entire army of lawyers in the regions and here, in the centre. We even had to hire extra lawyers for working with international requests, although we have a sufficiently large legal department, the International Court of Commercial Arbitration at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and all the rest. Nevertheless, everyone had their own deadlines, and everyone wanted to obtain documents very quickly, and we received a great deal of requests. We therefore organised the relevant work and involved other lawyers.
Naturally, we worked very closely with the Government during this period of time. We submitted three packages of proposals when different regulations were taking shape.
I would like to point out that thanks to the Government we organised webinars in the federal chamber, that is, we communicated with entrepreneurs all over the country, and invited a whole variety of services, ministries and departments to take part in them. Central Bank representatives spoke there several times, explaining all provisions, what financial tools to use and how to use them. Rospotrebnadzor also explained different positions frequently. Representatives of the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Industry and Trade also spoke at our webinars – practically all of them attended. I must say that none of those whom we addressed and invited to our webinars ever refused to participate. All the government bodies and services displayed understanding of their importance.
Speaking about this aspect of work, we tried to organise explanatory webinars as soon as the Government came up with some decisions. We tried to instantly give entrepreneurs an opportunity to ask questions, receive answers and respond accordingly.
We have a Business Barometer – an anonymous poll of entrepreneurs. We organised four stages of the Business Barometer of the Country and received feedback from entrepreneurs on the adopted measures. We immediately forwarded this information to the relevant ministries, departments and the State Duma and received their response.
Vladimir Putin: So you did not just help entrepreneurs to understand better support measures and use them effectively but also helped the Government receive feedback from the business community.
Sergei Katyrin: Absolutely. This was our job.
Generally, we are conducting this project – the Business Barometer of the Country. It is covered by the plan that you endorse. We already had eight stages of this project. We are using it to find out the attitude of entrepreneurs to corruption, reveal the most corrupt areas and what they are all about. In each case, we send this information to the governors, State Duma deputies and the Government. This is a tried-and-tested tool.
Family business is another special project which we covered in our written report to you. We are working on it. We have held three nationwide family business forums, which brought together family companies from all over the country. In conjunction with the Government, we are now working to make it a law.
Vladimir Putin: The State Duma deputies have come up with a proposal about this as well.
Sergei Katyrin: Yes. We overlap with them in this regard.
By the way, I think many deputies learned something new when we presented family businesses at the State Duma. We brought in companies, and they showed their products. It was a photo exhibition, of course. Unfortunately, there is no way to present everything live. The family business owners came to the State Duma to meet with the deputies and discuss things with them. It was two years ago. We held two such meetings, and then the pandemic broke out
We want these to be regular meetings, so that, in addition to our family forum, which the State Duma deputies and members of the Government attend, [family businesses could come to the State Duma as well]. First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov participated in the most recently held forum, took part in the discussions and talked with the family business owners. I hope he learned many interesting things from what the family companies had to share. We hope he will help us promote this project, which we believe is quite important.
To reiterate, we would like it to become a law, so that family business and everything related to it become a legal concept.
Vladimir Putin: How many delegates do you expect to attend the congress, Mr Katyrin?
Sergei Katyrin: Unfortunately, this time it will be an online event.
Vladimir Putin: But still.
Sergei Katyrin: We have elected 340 delegates. Back when they were elected, we still hoped we would be able to hold an in-person congress with properly distanced seating, so we picked the largest conference hall in the World Trade Centre to make sure we could seat everyone.
Vladimir Putin: Social distancing
Sergei Katyrin: Yes. We had 340 delegates. On February 26, they will gain access using a secure electronic digital signature. They will be able to express their points of view on all matters under discussion and to vote accordingly. It will be secure voting. I hope the Ministry of Justice will also attend, and the elected delegates will be able to participate in the congress and make decisions on all items on the agenda.
Vladimir Putin: I wish the delegates all the best and productive work.
Sergei Katyrin: Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.