Addressing the forum of business community representatives, Russian President highly praised bilateral economic ties and noted their excellent prospects.
Mr Medvedev paid particular attention to the expansion of investment cooperation.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr President Abdullah Gul, ladies and gentlemen, business colleagues,
Anyone who might question the high level of business relations between our nations can look around this room and see the number of entrepreneurs gathered here to understand that clearly, our countries have a very good future in business. I am pleased that my visit today is culminating with this forum.
Business people are pragmatic individuals thinking in practical terms and hardly responsive to mere assertions or appeals to engage in some entrepreneurial endeavours. Businesses usually believe the decisions made by authorities. I know this first-hand, because I spent a significant part of my professional life working with private businesses. I should be straightforward in stating that Russian-Turkish relations and your business ventures live through rather good times at the moment.
My colleagues, who spoke earlier, have already described our accomplishments hence I will just single out several issues.
First of all, we have now established a special High-Level Cooperation Council. What is the meaning of that step? This is an acknowledgement that economic relations between our nations are at a very high level. The Russian Federation has set councils like this one only if large-scale bilateral economic projects exist, or when there are long-term full-scale economic ties, therefore the fact this council has been created serves as evidence that things are going quite well. Still, the council’s goal is to further improve our economic relations, as well as political and humanitarian contacts. Thus, I hope that the council will rely on a steady trade and economic footing which in fact is already in place and has been repeatedly referred to here, I mean the [Russian-Turkish] Intergovernmental Commission headed by representatives of our governments who, as was already mentioned, have put in a lot of effort resulting in signature of many documents, some of which were the result of debates, elaborations and compromises. This is quite a customary practice though.
What’s most important is that this finally happened, and today, I can once again say with satisfaction, in front of all the business community representatives in this hall, that the contracts signed open to our countries investment opportunities worth over 25 billion dollars. I shall emphasise that these are investment figures, not the trade which may vary from year to year. This is a valuable result of a hard work, and our joint success.
We will continue our efforts in improving all our business ties. We will also expand our trade. Our colleagues just mentioned that last year was fairly difficult, although not catastrophic given the overall bad news coming from global markets.
This year has started off rather well. Indeed, we are seeing growth in turnover evidencing that our economies are on the rise after the global crisis and are complementing one another. I hope that this year we will achieve the same figures we had in the pre-crisis year.
We have also set out to meet an enormous challenge that has already been mentioned: to achieve an annual turnover of 100 billion dollars in just several years. If we are able to do this, Russia and Turkey will become major foreign trade partners. This is a level that is worthy of our nations’ potential, and I am certain that everyone present here will try to make their own input toward this 100 billion dollars goal.
We are cooperating in diverse areas some of which are our power engines. Naturally, our leading area of cooperation is energy. Today, we signed some major agreements, and we will continue working in this sector in the future. Thus, I’m not even going to linger on this sector, although it is one that I care about, because I spent a significant amount of time with the Gazprom board of directors and overall, I have a good sense of the workings of our largest company, which has its own partners in Turkey.
Nevertheless, I feel that investments into other fields, such as textiles, the food industry, the chemical, woodworking, and agricultural sectors, are also extremely important. Today, we signed an array of good resolutions. I would even say that they are exclusive resolutions qualifying Turkey as a very close partner of ours. They include the electronic and electro-technical industries, and all areas pertaining to high technologies. I feel that we have a lot to work on here, as our future lies here.
The sectors where we already have very strong capacities should not be ignored though. I am referring first and foremost to one of the key areas in our business relations – an area of trade that will develop in any case – and that is tourism. Today, tourism received a truly important boost through an epic decision to eliminate visas for a significant number of people arriving on holiday or engaging in business talks and in joint undertakings. I think that this is a good start, and we must ultimately aim at visa-free travels.
Another key area [of our cooperation] is the construction sector, which is very well-represented on the Russian market. I am certain that there are many businesspeople in this room who represent construction companies. There are many [Turkish] construction firms operating in Russia, over one hundred as I have been told. To be honest, I doubt the figure and think there are more than that as one hundred is not that many. But the fact remains that the aggregate contracts won by Turkish companies in the Russian [construction] market are worth some 30 billion dollars which is a very impressive figure indeed, and I am confident that we will be able to find new areas for jointly applying your capacities.
In turn, Russian companies are also quite familiar with the Turkish market, and this is very important, because investments cannot flow only in one direction; otherwise, they would begin to dry up and there would be a decrease in interest from businesses or the government. Even though perhaps the share of Russian capital in the Turkish market is not yet as significant as we would like, but nevertheless, it is measured in billions of dollars of investments in high technologies, metallurgy, and various Turkish assets. I hope that our businesspeople, some of whom are also present here, will develop contacts with their Turkish partners more actively.
I would like to say again that investments are an interpenetrating phenomenon and cannot go only one way. All of you have business partners in Russia, and you understand that it is always preferable for them to also have some prospects in your market.
The truth is that our economies are growing. They are modern; they are linked to various markets and are deeply integrated into the European market. Although we are not members of the European Union per se, we interact with its member-states very actively. I think that we both have our own communication experience [with the EU] and we should think about advancing joint projects to modernise our economies. In any case, this is a goal that currently stands before the Russian economy and we will certainly move toward it.
By the way, there are some interesting ideas about promoting high-tech projects on the Turkish market, particularly projects related to creating wireless broadband access to the internet using WiMAX and LTE technologies. But this is just one example; I am simply bringing it up because this is a technology of the future and because I personally find it interesting.
We do have some problems though, and we must discuss them as well. The goal of a partnership is not to gloss over the existing situation and claim that we are absolutely exclusive business partners, that everything is fine, and that we do not foresee any problems in the future. Problems do exist – both on the Russian side and the Turkish side. Hence the goal of our governments, intergovernmental commissions, and ultimately presidents, is to resolve thsse problems. Several of these problems were mentioned today and I see them as affecting a lot of areas. They are not just Russian problems, they are also Turkish problems to certain degree and they include customs barriers, as well as reliance on reserve currencies that occasionally dip – such as when the dollar or the euro is not doing so well. We absolutely need to think about truly, cardinally expanding the use of our national currencies. Some states are already doing this very well; everyone knows about China’s experience. We could definitely set things up so that a significant share of our turnover makes use of rubles or liras.
There are problems related to banking operations and services. It is imperative to establish a joint bank, or even multiple joint banks, because when we have 40 to 100 billion dollars in turnover, this requires special banking instruments. I think that we need to stimulate these kinds of decisions.
There are also issues regarding quotas, logistics centres, and sea port capacities. I hope that we will have a lot fewer issues with regard to visas following our new resolutions. Finally, there are matters concerning authorities and judicial decisions from both sides. Today, we discussed these subjects.
Thus, there is still a significant amount of work to be done by authorities, governments, and courts. It is impossible to promote such major projects and such serious relations without participation by the governments – and there can be no doubt that our relations are very serious.
I would like to sincerely congratulate you as respected representatives of our business communities on the breakthrough in trade and economic relations that we witnessed today during the President of the Russian Federation’s official visit to Turkey. I wish you all success in your business affairs.