Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,
Our meetings have become not just regular but have acquired a practical, working character. We constantly discuss the progress of the reform of the judiciary and the tax system, the issues of accession into the WTO and the state of domestic enterprises and industries. We also discuss the progress of modernising economic law-making and monetary liberalisation. I think you would agree with me that to a certain extent we have achieved progress on practically all these issues.
At one of our meetings we looked in detail at the flaws of the judiciary system, which has long been a barrier to the development of business. You know that the reform of the court system is going full steam ahead and it has also involved the activities of arbitration courts, which have been the main targets of your complaints. And I think you will agree with me that many provisions of these reforms – not only court reforms but also in other areas – have been considered and in most cases happened after our meetings with you.
I understand that today you would like to discuss the problems of bankruptcy and taxation. I am aware that the package of tax bills the Government submitted to the State Duma gave rise to some doubts. So it is important to hear your assessment of the proposed changes and your overall assessment of the current tax situation. We must move forward without creating new obstacles and without destroying what has already been put in place.
Now permit me to make some remarks on the problem of bankruptcy. In the popular mind bankruptcy and the re-division of property have unfortunately come to mean one and the same. And yet the rehabilitation of enterprises through bankruptcy is a method used everywhere in the world. Replacement of an inefficient owner is a natural and absolutely necessary procedure. But we have managed to distort it to such an extent that people today absolutely don’t trust it. Therefore we face an urgent task of shaping a clear-cut, constant and truly effective policy in this field. I would like to hear your opinions.
There is another range of problems. In May and June important international events are scheduled that directly affect the interests of Russian industrialists and entrepreneurs. They are the regular summits between Russia and the EU and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and a meeting of the G8 in Canada.
As you know, we had a very meaningful foreign policy discussion at the meeting of the State Council Presidium yesterday. I think it is important that the heads of the regions have paid attention to these issues. I think we will soon hold a meeting of the State Council to discuss these problems.
I would also like to discuss the international aspects with you. They are diverse and numerous, but I think you would agree with me that there are two key areas. They are ensuring security and economic cooperation, and it is hard to say which is the more important task.
The US President’s visit to our country will begin in a few hours. The US is our key partner. Among the topics that will be discussed during the visit by George W. Bush, economic relations will be the main focus. One of the issues is the recognition of Russia as a country with a market economy.
You know that, unfortunately, the US Congress has postponed a decision on the Jackson-Vanik amendment on the eve of this visit. It is a somewhat puzzling decision because initially, as everybody knows, the amendment was introduced in connection with restrictions on Russian citizens leaving for permanent residence abroad. Now, for some reason, chicken thighs and meat have become a main stumbling block. It may appear strange at first glance. But actually – and I stress it again – it shows how intense competition is in the international markets. Any arguments are pressed into service. We should also act vigorously, in a well-balanced way, but we must meet the emerging challenges.
The trade disputes, including supplies of metals, will also get their due share of attention. It is a vital problem for us and it will have to be solved at the top level. I would like to tell you that we have discussed this topic with Mr Bush more than once already. And I must say that the American approach to the problem with regard to Russia has turned out to be very liberal.
I would like you to know that the other day I sent a special message about the problems connected with the metal trade to the US President.
I think that in light of the above issues, a discussion our international business activities would be appropriate. It is our duty to translate the new quality of our relations with Western countries into economic benefits for our country.
You know that we have already managed to achieve some economic successes, notably in the energy market. Now we must think and act together, expanding the geographic range of energy exports and building up a partnership in determining the price corridor. We will address these issues using all the resources of economic diplomacy.
Expanded international cooperation and the appearance of new allies open up new opportunities for business. I would like to discuss them with you today.
And finally, our main task is to improve the wellbeing of our citizens. This greatly depends on our position on the world markets. For that reason trade and economic themes emerge as key aspects of any, I stress it, any international negotiations.
Additional markets for our country mean above all new jobs and business development opportunities.
For now, that is all I wanted to say.