The 14th VTB Russia Calling! Investment Forum is being held on December 7 and 8, 2023, in Moscow. Its central theme is Making Deglobalisation: Uniting Sovereign Economies.
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President and Chairman of VTB Bank Management Board Andrei Kostin: Mr President,
Ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to welcome you to the opening session of the 14th VTB Russia Calling! Investment Forum. As tradition dictates, this event brings together not only the most prominent Russian business leaders, but also many of our foreign colleagues. From this perspective, this year’s forum is no exception. Today, we have 295 people in this room from 20 countries, primarily China, India, Turkiye, Iran, as well as Arab, Central Asian and African countries.
Our forum has been pursuing the same objectives for all these years, attracting foreign investment in the Russian economy, as well as providing extensive information and deep insight to the international investment community about business opportunities in Russia and the way its Government, Central Bank, and regional governments work to improve the business and investment climate.
The Russia Calling! forum has always been committed to promoting equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and the world around it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that over the past two decades the forum has come to symbolise Russia’s openness and its readiness to be part of the global economy by working closely with both the West and the East.
It took the forum just a few years to claim the slot it deserved in the international business calendar, becoming a must-attend event for many investors. We have achieved these results by attracting high-profile participants, organising insightful debates and offering a packed and eventful programme. However, the main factor, of course has been President Vladimir Putin’s personal contribution to our forum, which has made it a truly unique event.
Mr President, allow me to express once again my sincere gratitude to you for your input. We know that you have just returned from a very intense trip, but nevertheless, you are here with us.
Colleagues, friends, the first Russia Calling! forum took place in autumn 2009, when the global financial crisis was at its peak. At the time, geopolitics was still in sync with the world economy, or so it seemed. However, the crisis became the first warning sign hinting at the instability of the existing unipolar globalisation model. In fact, when one economy, even if it was the world’s largest, sneezed, the entire world fell sick. In this way, the crisis forced us to consider whether the principles underpinning this model were just, and to think about the economic and financial risks when a single country and some of its allies dominate across the board.
Subsequent developments confirmed that these concerns were justified. In fact, this group of countries started using finance as their main weapon to further their military and political interests, offering them an essential tool for actively interfering in the domestic affairs of dozens of countries with the aim of undermining their internal political stability and changing duly elected governments.
In 2002, then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Moscow that arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the law of gravity. It is not a completely inaccurate view. Everything depends on your understanding of globalisation and whose interests it serves. The events of the past few years show that the previous monocentric model of globalisation is malfunctioning and facing a major crisis.
The world is undergoing a profound transformation. A large part of the world, the global majority whose delegates are present here, would like to live in a fairer multipolar world and to see a new type of globalisation. In fact, the central theme of today’s forum, Making Deglobalisation: Uniting Sovereign Economies, reflects this long-term trend.
Russia and its economy will not revert back to the old system. Life has confirmed the viability of a different development model, which is proved by the geography of the forum’s participants.
In the current situation, not all those who wanted to are attending the forum. But the Rubicon has been crossed. We can only move forward now. There are two busy days ahead.
In a few minutes, we will begin a macroeconomic plenary session with the participation of President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Speakers at this session include the heads of the financial and economic blocks and prominent Russian businesspeople, such as Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina, Presidential Aide Maxim Oreshkin, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov, President and Chairman of the Management Board of MMC Norilsk Nickel Vladimir Potanin, and co-founder of Positive Technologies and Cyberus Yury Maksimov. <…>
I would like to wish success to the 14th VTB Investment Forum Russia Calling! and productive meetings and discussions to all participants.
And now, it is my pleasure to give the floor to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
Please, Mr President.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, friends.
I would like to welcome all of you, those representing both Russian and international businesses, in Moscow at the Russia Calling! forum. As Mr Kostin has said, it was created several years ago, and I believe that it emerged as an effective and permanent platform for exchanging views with our colleagues and businesses.
Today, I would like to focus on the objectives we have in terms of finance and investment. I will offer a bird’s eye view of the way the Russian economy has been developing in today’s challenging environment. I will approach this matter in general terms since my colleagues here to my right will fill you on all the details. After all, they are the ones shaping and carrying out this agenda.
You know that the global system of economic relations is going through radical, irreversible changes, as we have just heard, which is due to the fact that a multipolar model is about to replace yesterday’s globalisation model.
Mr Kostin has mentioned former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan just now. He was a brilliant diplomat and a very good and decent person. I can assure you of that. He spoke sincerely, and it really seemed that what he said was undeniable. In fact, it was true because globalisation was with us, and it was gaining momentum. But the trouble is that people had different understandings of globalisation, and their goals were different.
Such people as Kofi Annan thought that globalisation should benefit everyone, and that conditions should be the same for everyone. But that was not at all what happened in practice. One country, which has been mentioned here, thought that the globalisation architecture should be different – with the United States at the helm.
Mr Kostin has said that the United States held its position jointly with its allies. But it turned out that it exploited its allies just like other economies. You can see what this has led to. I will speak about this later.
What we want is to create a new model, a truly democratic model where honest competition between all economic players will dominate. This change in the global economic landscape and the rise of new leaders are an objective and to a large degree predictable process.
In fact, it has always been like this in life in human history, all the time and in all spheres. It has always been like this, with some countries rising and then subsiding, giving way to new leaders. This is what is taking place in the global economy now.
However, Western elites, which are currently at the top of this process, are trying to slow it down, to contain growth artificially in what they regard as the global periphery, which they have traditionally exploited and used as a resource, as a source of [economic] rent and simply as a colony. To attain this goal, they use sanctions, for example, exacerbating the political situation and provoking conflicts in whole macro-regions in an attempt to maintain their slipping domination.
The Western elite love talking about the principles underpinning the market economy, but they went so far as to cancel them. We remember, and people here probably remember, the mantras we heard when globalisation was taking shape as a system: everyone must be equal, everyone must enjoy equal treatment, and borders must be open – they must remain open at any cost. How can it be otherwise? This runs counter to the very concept of global development. But whenever a competitor comes up, suddenly, they rush to seal off their borders, as if it was a knee jerk reaction of some kind. This is what all these principles are worth.
They have gone even further recently by cancelling what seemed to be timeless concepts such as property rights. Only recently, we thought that the European jurisdictions were safe, that they were what was called the safe havens, but this is no longer the case. They have adopted the friend-or-foe approach, much like the IFF– Identification Friend or Foe system in the air force. This is how they determine whether to grab someone’s assets and leave them without a dime, and block assets, companies or enterprises, take them away or even liquidate them after acts of sabotage like with the Nord Stream pipelines. This is what competition is all about in a rules-based order.
Who needs these rules? It is obvious that these actions undermine decades-old financial, trade and economic ties, primarily those crafted by the West. By the way, this has also discredited the financial infrastructure dominated by the dollar and the euro, transactions through Western banks and SWIFT.
Today, transactions in national currencies are effectively replacing this system. Of course, this is still a work in progress, which is obvious, but we are moving in this direction and this process is poised to gain momentum. I would even argue that the Western financial system is clearly becoming obsolete from a technological perspective. It has remained so complacent for so long and has become used to its monopoly and exceptionalist nature and that there were no alternatives that it has grown used to keeping everything as it is. This made it obsolete, or at least it is about to become archaic and obsolete.
As far as international transactions are concerned, we are increasingly converting to advanced solutions, including those involving blockchain and digital currencies through central banks. According to the analysts, this will pave the way for revolutionary shifts that will deprive the major Western banks of their monopoly. We see that these lenders are not in their best shape, at least some of them.
I would like to stress once again that the world has entered an era of cardinal change and trials, not just for companies and industries, but for entire countries and regions. Only a strong, stable and, I would like to especially stress and emphasise that, sovereign country will be able to pass through this and become a growth centre in the new global economy. This is extremely important. This is what connects the economy and our policy. This must be a country with powerful industrial, technological, infrastructural, human and financial potential, with its own dynamic market; a country that clearly knows how to defend its political, economic, and trade interests, the interests of national businesses and its foreign business partners.
As it turns out, countries like this exist. Despite any external pressure, rebuffing, pounding on the table, whispering in the ear, there are people who are leaders of countries, and powerful countries at that, who do not succumb to this pressure and are guided primarily by their own national interests, and they fit into the model that we offer for development.
We have proven that we are capable of facing the most difficult challenges. The Russian economy is effectively coping with external attempts to restrain the development of the country. The key was the fundamental, as it turned out, margin of safety that we have been building over the past 20 years, and especially since 2014 after the first large package of sanctions against Russia was introduced. Back then, we focused on developing the consumer sector, strengthening the financial sector and creating our own payment infrastructure.
Let me remind you that one of the West’s first decisions last year was to disconnect Russian banks from the Visa and Mastercard systems. The bet was that this would make it impossible to pay for goods and services, collapse payments, and therefore paralyse the country’s banking sector. As some Western colleagues put it, they wanted to make our citizens “suffer.” These were the humanistic plans for Russian citizens. They wanted to create problems for millions of Russian families.
But, how did this turn out in reality? Individuals and businesses never even noticed the seamless transition to the national payment system, which is now successfully operating and expanding. Accordingly, we have stopped paying commissions to Western companies, so they have lost profits on what they could have earned in Russia.
We certainly still have a lot to work on here. Perhaps Ms Nabiullina, who heads the Central Bank, will talk more about this. We certainly do. In any case, our ill-wishers have definitely failed to reach their goals; on the contrary, we have strengthened our sovereignty in this area, and we are quite confident at that. This is just one example.
In finance, industry and the consumer market, we are gradually discontinuing the use of any imposed services, brands or intermediaries. In fact, we are expanding our own market, and seeing system-wide positive results from our dedicated efforts. For example, in the first ten months of this year, Russia’s GDP grew by 3.2 percent. It is already higher right now than it was before the Western sanctions attack.
By the end of the year, GDP growth is expected to reach 3.5 percent – at least, we are all counting on that. You will agree with me – everyone here is well-versed in this field – that this is a good indicator for the Russian economy.
Russia is Europe’s largest economy and is now ahead of all the leading EU countries in terms of growth rates. Moreover, the so-called essential non-commodity industries are accounting for an increasing share in the structure of Russia’s economic growth. These include manufacturing, transport, logistics, construction, information, communications, and housing and utilities.
For example, in the second quarter of this year, they accounted for more than half (54 percent, to be more precise) of economic growth. Another 44 percent had to with what is known as the support industries – trade, catering, other services. And only 2 percent, I would like to emphasise this, only 2 percent came from mineral extraction. Now let’s hear someone refer to Russia as a fuel station, like they did in the not too distant past.
I admit that there are industries that have not yet fully recovered, not fully adapted to the new conditions. One of them is wood processing. There are reasons for this. It was largely dependent on European markets. Nevertheless, the situation is changing for the better. The automobile industry has had a rough time because our companies had a high dependence on imported components. This industry was among the hardest hit. But it is gradually emerging from the crisis as well.
I would like to specifically note that, despite the objective difficulties, Russian businesses have shown high responsibility. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank our colleagues for this. Not only have companies retained their workforce and established new logistics chains, but they are also launching projects in the domestic consumer market, in the high-tech sector, in tourism, and in other industries. They are quickly taking the niches that were vacated after a number of Western companies left our market. Did they think everything would collapse here? Well, nothing of the kind happened. Russian companies took over and moved on. And our business leaders are proceeding very confidently.
Now I would like to emphasise that we are interested in making our market open and competitive. This is the key to development, a stimulus for the qualitative growth of domestic businesses and the entire Russian economy. Again, Russia is not expelling anyone or closing its markets to anyone. Many foreign firms and companies said they wanted to continue working in our country despite the pressure from their governments and officials. We only welcome this. Despite the pressure, they either changed their names and maintained their presence in the market, or simply transferred the business to management – with the right to buy it back, to be honest and clear. God bless them; let them work. We will only support this.
You know, you can waste your breath as much as you want, making slogans and threats – let this be up to those Western politicians who intend to cancel Russia. But all this hype cannot cancel the immutable fact that it has always been profitable to work with Russia and in Russia; it is profitable today and will remain profitable. And this fact has been confirmed over centuries, in the experience of generations of merchants, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople from around the world.
From the beginning of March 2022, to this November, the number of foreign companies in Russia, I would like to draw your attention to this, despite all the pressure from the political elite in the West, the number of foreign entities, business entities operating in Russia, has not decreased. Can you imagine? I was surprised to discover this myself when I was looking at the materials. It has increased. As of March 1, 2022, 24,100 foreign organisations were registered in Russia. As of this November 1, there were almost 1,500 more, about 25,600. This is an indicator of their interest and willingness to work in Russia. The growth of the domestic market and the expansion of Russia's contacts with the states of Asia, the Middle East, the South of Eurasia, Latin America, and Africa opens up additional opportunities in our economy for virtually any business.
I will cite a few indicative figures. In a year and a half, the number of domestic companies in light industry has grown by 80 percent, furniture manufacturers by 30 percent, and children's toys by 20 percent. During the same period, that is, over the last year and a half, the number of trademarks owned by Russian companies has increased by more than a third. What does this indicate? That investment in projects to manufacture these products, to create new enterprises and jobs throughout the country are worthwhile and profitable. Thus, in the first nine months of this year, the profits of large and medium-sized companies in the real sector exceeded 26 trillion rubles. This turned out to be about a quarter more than a year earlier. This is a good indicator. Businesses are not just earning profits, they are investing in development, which means they believe in the prospects, in the future of our economy.
In the second quarter of this year, investment in fixed assets added 12.6 percent, and in the third quarter – already 13.3 percent. Investments are increasing. What does that mean?
Everyone here understands perfectly well what this means. It means that conditions are being created for future development in the medium term – this is obvious. We need to support this growing business activity and, above all, ensure the availability of financial resources for business, for those areas that cover the needs of the domestic market and export demand.
I know, now they will talk about Central Bank rates. Our colleagues will talk about this in front of you. This will be both useful and indicative. But what do I want to say?
Yes, there are always disputes about the role of rates and business activity. This is understandable. But the figures I cited show that overall, the necessary decision-making by the financial and economic authorities of the country is still developing in the right direction.
The main thing is that conditions are being created for carrying out the effective structural transformation of our economy, increasing labour productivity and improving the quality of life. Income growth is also a very important indicator – by now real wages and salaries have grown 7 percent and real disposal income by 4.4 percent. I am not mistaken, am I? Is that right? That’s right.
This is also a very important indicator, and not just for social policy, it is important even for economic development and the internal condition of the society which is disposed to do positive work. It is important for labour productivity, and as I said, for income growth, etc.
It is necessary to create the broadest possible range of instruments for funding investment of any scope – from small businesses to big, large, backbone companies.
It is extremely important for these instruments to be tailored to the specificities of businesses, to consider their phase of development and, of course, the particular features of the area in which they are operating, where these businesses are implementing their plans. As you know well, these parameters determine the most convenient and effective type of funding in each specific case – debt or equity financing.
Of course, the banking sector and stock market are playing the leading role in promoting these mechanisms. The operation of Russian banks is steady and sustainable even though the majority of them are under sanctions. They have a solid safety margin and are building up lending alternatives in the real economy.
I constantly talk to representatives of large and medium-sized companies and the financial sector. They are all displeased with each other. It is always like this, and I think it’s the same everywhere. But the figures show that decisions are made, life goes on, the economy develops and that results are achieved overall.
Some experts – I would like to recall those who predicted that our banks would stop developing and funding the economy due to sanctions. However, instead our banking sector has become more effective and set a lending record in Russia’s entire history. The scope of lending is enormous – both corporate and mortgage. Certain risks exist in this respect. The Government and the Central Bank are discussing this and searching for ways of keeping this market from overheating. We know the negative experience of some countries where the mortgage market had not been provided with real money, putting it mildly. We know the outcome of this. We seek to incorporate all experience, including negative, to prevent anything similar from happening in our economy.
Nevertheless, a few words about lending. Last year, the amount of ruble loans to the corporate sector grew by 9.5 trillion rubles and went up by over another 13 trillion rubles since the start of this year.
There are grounds to say with confidence that domestic sources of credit for Russian companies have replaced foreign ones. This was one of the most critically important issues for our economy.
I cannot say that everything has been resolved. Certainly not, because Western loans are cheaper and the scale is different. But overall this is not a problem today.
The same applies to state borrowing. For the first time in a long while, the federal budget deficit was fully financed by domestic resources. It is worth noting that the Western portfolio investors deprived themselves – or did this under pressure from their governments – of an opportunity to make money in our high-yield market. We can only sympathise with them. Let them have more influence on the sensible decisions that should be made by government structures in their countries.
A few words about state finances. In the first 11 months of this year, the federal budget deficit amounted to 878 billion rubles or about 0.5 percent of the GDP. The consolidated budget even had a surplus of 837 billion rubles if we count regional finances and so on. To sum up, overall, Russia’s financial system is in absolutely normal, healthy condition.
Let me remind you that at the beginning of this year, some experts expected Russia to face a budget deficit of 3 or even 5 percent of GDP. Incidentally, this would not be a disaster or even a big problem considering our low debt. However, this did not happen. In a word, this was yet another instance of wishful thinking on behalf of these experts and in reality, matters took a different turn, as you see.
That said, we see, of course, the problems and tasks that we still need to deal with. To preserve our positive dynamics, the economy, Russian companies should have more opportunities to attract resources in our financial market, to increase the number of placements of their securities that enjoy demand inside the country.
I would like to say the following in this context: those who attend the economic forums of Russia’s leading business associations often talk about capital drain. They say that big and profitable businesses would like to save money, to invest in Russia – it is more reliable and the returns are higher. But there is a shortage of investment instruments. I think this is the case in reality. It is necessary to give the green light to such investment, develop modern financial infrastructure and create effective channels for transforming corporate savings into investment.
I would like to draw the attention of the Government, the Central Bank and our development institutions to this point. I would like the Government to ensure, in cooperation with Vnesheconombank, that investment projects start as soon as possible under the equity funds programme.
This mechanism works as follows – banks send free money to the fund and the fund guarantees the profitability of the investment. Vnesheconombank acts as the guarantor. In this way, banks can take part in business projects in the real sector as co-founders.
The first fund of this type has been established and now it is necessary to use this instrument practically on a broad scale for funding specific initiatives. It took us a long time to create this fund. We had many debates with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs about it, but the fund has been set up and will finally start operating.
Today, the Russian stock market is vigorously attracting funds from retail investors. More than 27 million people are using the services of brokers, about a quarter more than a year ago. The value of the assets they own is about 9 trillion rubles.
Individual savings should serve as an important source of investment resources in the way it is done in many economies in the world. They should work for the economy, drive growth and bring additional income to the owners. We are focusing on making attractive offers to Russians who are ready to make long-term investments and make money inside the country. We have seen investments in foreign securities for what they are worth. The option turned out to be so patently unreliable, with our Western partners’ actions so – I cannot think of the right word – uncivilised, to put it mildly. They just stole money from people, from individuals. It was absolutely outrageous. But we know such things happen. Those responsible are actually destroying their own economy.
On January 1, Russia is launching a new instrument of retail long-term savings – voluntary contributions to non-state funds. Individual investments of up to 2.8 million rubles will be insured by the state. This means their return will be guaranteed. I believe that the same insurance mechanism should be extended to long-term individual investment accounts, with insurance coverage of up to 1.4 million per person. The same amount as bank deposit insurance.
I expect that this will increase the flow of funds to projects with a long payback period, such as the construction of infrastructure, logistics corridors, terminals, and other major long-term projects.
In the first year of the programme that goes on stream on January 1, the total volume of retail investments in non-state funds should be at least 250 billion. This is not a very large figure at the national level, but it is a good level to start, and in 2026, this resource should grow to 1 percent of the GDP.
We also need to develop solutions to augment the capital of fast-growing high-tech businesses. As a rule, the only valuable asset they have is the idea, some new technology and a great desire to implement them, but most of them lack resources for growth, for entering the market. We have already envisioned measures that will stimulate demand for innovation on the part of major corporations and companies co-owned by the state. They will allocate more money for direct and venture investments and for the purchase of domestic high-tech products.
The government and the Bank of Russia should certainly pay heightened attention to this segment. We need to simplify the share issue procedure for small but fast-growing companies, not only on stock exchanges, but also on investment platforms, where private investors can become real co-owners of promising startups. Of course, we still need to think over the details, but we certainly need to move in this direction.
The financial stability, the self-sufficiency of the banking system and the stock market are important elements of the country’s economic sovereignty, and we will definitely move forward on this path with the joint efforts of the state, society and strong nationally-oriented businesses. We will also work together with our foreign partners. We see this as the key to Russia’s successful development, its strong presence in a changing world, in the world of the future.
Thank you for your attention.
Andrei Kostin: Thank you very much.
Colleagues, as you know, the President has a very busy schedule today in terms of his international contacts. Nevertheless, he agreed to answer several questions in order not to break with the established tradition. We have quite a few of our colleagues here among speakers who can follow up on any question if the President does not have enough time to answer it.
Vladimir Putin: They will do it better than me.
Andrei Kostin: I doubt that, of course. Or I should say that this is not the case, but never mind.
Vladimir Putin: There is no room for doubt here. I am saying this in all sincerity, 100 percent.
Andrei Kostin: Colleagues, go ahead.
Yu Xinyu: Mr President,
I am delighted to see you. I am Yu Xinyu from Passion company.
Here is my question: what do you think about the future of technological cooperation among states considering all the restrictions imposed primarily by the United States on China? They reinforced China’s aspirations to be independent and self-reliant.
I am primarily referring to sharing critical technology. Are there any concerns that this could slow down technological progress since every country would have to go through the entire development cycle on its own to master each technology? Many will have to basically reinvent the wheel. What path will Russia take? What are the sectors where you are ready or not ready to work with others?
Vladimir Putin: Let me begin with China. We are ready to cooperate in all areas. There are no restrictions here, and this goes for military technology too. When we think about the future and the world order of tomorrow, and when we think about ways to ensure our security, we must think outside of the box instead of limiting our relations to just buyers and sellers. We are thinking about the future, and we are thinking about technology. This is my first point.
Now let me address the main point of your question regarding technological restrictions and whether certain countries would have to start from scratch and develop solutions from the ground up, or, in other words, to reinvent the wheel. You know, I raised this issue in my remarks. These restrictions are designed to ensure their unconditional dominance and preserve it at any cost. There have always been restrictions. Those who invented gunpowder did everything they could to keep the secret to themselves, but nevertheless it eventually became the legacy of all of humanity, for better or worse. The same goes for restrictions resulting from all these export control lists like CoCom. They did have a restraining effect on the Soviet Union’s development, but the country still succeeded in delivering on all the objectives it pursued.
In the 1990s, with the Soviet Union gone, it seemed that these CoCom lists were cancelled, at least officially, but in reality they remained in effect. Today, the so-called collective West, primarily the United States, wants to preserve its dominance at any cost, primarily in terms of technology. Is this even possible? Of course not, just as it was impossible before. It was impossible in the Middle Ages and during the Cold War, so how can it be possible today, in the internet age, in the era of speed and exchanges, including scientific contacts? This is simply impossible. This is the first thing I wanted to say.
Second, at a certain stage someone may succeed in concealing something, but this can backfire by preventing them from getting something when they need it. This is my second point.
Third, we should not think about these limitations. We must look forward, move forward and take action across the board, primarily with regard to education, which in itself is becoming a factor in economic growth. To achieve this, we must work together with those who are ready to work in a modern and civilised way. We must create common research and educational platforms within the BRICS framework, establish common investment platforms, and launch new projects, starting with education.
If we act across a wide range of fields, if we support and help each other, no restrictions, imposed by those trying to retain certain privileges, will hinder us. I have no doubt about that.
We will also work with the People's Republic of China. We have a very good and trusting relationship with President Xi Jinping, and there are ties at the government level and in the business community. I have no doubt that no one will be able to stop us or slow down our development.
Andrei Kostin: Colleagues, who else? Please.
Tong Jin Xu (retranslated): Mr President,
I represent the Chinese company Huang Jin. My name is Tong Jin Hu.
I am very grateful to President Vladimir Putin. I have just one question. We have established extensive cooperation in mining, and there is still great potential for further development.
After the departure of foreign companies, I would like to see a more liberal policy here, because we have very powerful enterprises in China that would like to develop the mining industry in Russia.
I remember that $30–40 million was allocated for this purpose three or four years ago. Our mining company is a very responsible business. We have broad competencies in this area. We would like to cooperate.
Thank you very much, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: I can only welcome your interest in working in Russia.
You only mentioned the industry but did not specify any companies or projects [you would like to cooperate with]. Of course, we are ready to accompany and support them.
As for greater liberalisation, if you think there are any limitations that prevent you from expanding your activity in our economy, we will definitely consider them. I just need to understand what exactly you mean.
Our colleagues will speak here [at the forum]; the Minister of Economic Development is also here – you can discuss this with him in more detail. Thank God, our relations with China are growing very effectively. Our target is to achieve $200 billion in trade next year, or in the coming years. We will reach $200 billion this year, and I think no one has any doubts about that. If your company can contribute to this joint progress, we will only welcome it.
Please, talk to our colleagues in more detail. Agreed? Thank you.
Andrei Kostin: Next question, please.
Anil Agarwal: My name is Anil Agarwal. I am from Cosmos Group, New Delhi. Namaste, dobry den.
Your Excellency, you have presented a wonderful view of the global political and economic landscape. Congratulations.
Your Excellency, we all know that Russia plays and will continue to play an important role in shaping global politics and will always have a substantial impact on the world economy. In view of the current conflicts, political tensions and Western sanctions, Russia has formulated new geopolitical strategies, modern monetary and economic policies, and is steering its economy very well. It is heartening to note the tremendous GDP growth Russia has achieved despite several challenges. Many compliments to the brilliant team seated here.
Your Excellency, India and Russia have shared historical partnership, with deep-rooted ties in various spheres, and both countries have strategic alliances. India and Russia could get connected via the North-South Corridor and with Russia’s Far East for the benefit of both nations.
Both India and Russia can play an important role in geopolitics and economic growth, and both countries have agreed to take up trade and investment in our national currencies, ruble and rupee.
Your Excellency, given the new opportunities, how could we accelerate the process of increasing bilateral trade and economic relations and spread peace and prosperity? Thank you, Your Excellency.
Vladimir Putin: Above all, I would like to say that relations between Russia and India are making steady headway in all areas. The policy pursued by the Prime Minister of India, Mr Modi, is the main guarantor of this. He belongs to the group of political leaders about whom I spoke without mentioning their names or surnames.
I cannot imagine that Mr Modi could be scared, intimidated or forced into taking some actions or decisions that would go against the national interests of India and the Indian people. I know that such pressure exists. Incidentally, we never even talked about this. I am just looking at what is going on and, frankly, sometimes I am even surprised at his tough position on upholding the national interests of the Indian state.
But this is taking place nonetheless and, let me repeat – our trade is growing. Last year, it was $35 billion for the year, while it is already $33.5 billion in just the first half of this year. So, the growth will be substantial.
Yes, we all realise that India is benefiting from discounted Russian energy sources. And it is doing the right thing. I would do the same in their place, given those dynamics. They are making money, as they should. But, of course, this is not enough. We have many more opportunities. In the global rakings of the world economies at purchasing power parity (PPP), India is third in terms of the size of the economy, and Russia is fifth. Let me remind you – it is China, the US, India, Japan, Russia. Three massive economies in PPP.
Of course, if our trade with China will reach nearly $200 billion this year, it would be only right to increase it with India, too. The question is how to do it and what must be done.
First, and you have just said so, is to focus more on developing logistics. One of the projects that we will discuss with our guest who has already arrived in Moscow – President of Iran [Ebrahim] Raisi – is the North-South transport corridor, among other things. India, of course, will benefit from it. India is interested in implementing routes like this. The Northern Sea Route must also be developed; this is another promising project in logistics. There are other routes that can be discussed. Of course, this is all very important.
The second thing that must be done is to develop the financial infrastructure. It has already been said, and I have mentioned this, too: we have to use more national currencies in mutual settlements. We have to ensure that transactions are completely reliable, so that there are no glitches in international payments.
Relying on this basis, we should of course pay more attention to investment and investment flows. Not just investments, but investments in specific projects and enterprises to increase the scale of our cooperation. There are enough areas of activity: traditional ones like pharmaceuticals, as well as agriculture, and industry. We have plenty to work on. That is what we will do.
I am sure that everything will work out.
Andrei Kostin: Thank you.
Can I ask one last quick question?
How do you imagine this hall will look in 10 years in terms of the composition of the participants? Will American and Western European investors return here? What do you think?
Vladimir Putin: As for the investors, they are smart people, unlike those who give them commands. Maybe not visibly, but they are present here, I assure you.
I hope very much that we will be able to communicate directly and personally. We are still in contact, to be honest, but the shouting from the political arena interferes with our work, though ultimately I think that common sense will prevail sooner or later. This is how I feel.
Andrei Kostin: Thank you very much.
Let us thank the President for his extensive remarks. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. All the best.