Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, Mr President, colleagues and friends,
First of all I would like to thank you for the opportunity to say a few words about our vision of Russian-Norwegian cooperation in the economic sphere, and to exchange opinions in an informal atmosphere on what we should do together for cooperation to become still more effective.
We know the pragmatism, common sense, balanced approach and correctness of the Norwegian business circles, and we value these business qualities and believe that business contacts will draw on the entire previous positive experience of our cooperation and will develop in an upward spiral.
Cooperation with Norway is important for Russia. The Prime Minister today repeatedly referred to the different economic potentials and size of our countries. I must say that we feel quite relaxed about it. In fact, Norway is an important partner for us, especially in the north. For us the north-west of the Russian Federation is one of the key regions where a large potential is concentrated: scientific-technical and human resources, and highly skilled human resources at that. Ever new possibilities for developing natural resources and riches are opening up in northern Russia, as they are in northern Norway. And we have a lot in common and much common ground there. I think in the old days Norwegians used to say that the road to the north meant the road to death, that is, sending somebody to the north meant sending somebody to his death. Today it is the other way around: business is moving northward in Russia and business is moving northward in Norway as many opportunities arise. It is the road to the wealth of resources and to the prosperity of our countries.
The successfully established Norwegian corridor to the north has opened the gates to the future. And it is continued in Russia to the east. Both our country and Norway are embarking on that road with ever greater assurance and confidence.
Life has shown that both countries stand to gain from cooperation.
Our common economic interests include offshore hydrocarbon deposits – and we have discussed all this with the Minister – they include marine navigation, shipbuilding and fishing. All that creates objective prerequisites for production cooperation. The priorities are the joint development of oil and gas, introduction of modern technologies in the process of converting Russian shipbuilding facilities from military to civilian use, in the production of mineral fertilisers and wood processing, modernisation of the fishing industry and port management. We would welcome expanded cooperation in such areas as transport, telecommunications and information technologies, medicine and agriculture.
The Prime Minister has already noted that trade between our countries amounted to about a billion dollars last year and it is now even a little more. That is a substantial growth, but in general it could be greater. According to my data, trade increased by 3% on last year. Our exports to Norway amount to $800 million and imports are approaching $300 million. As for investments, we are making only the first steps: we have just 120 registered enterprises with Norwegian participation, mainly in the north-western regions of Russia.
Russia is certainly interested in increased investments from Norway. Today’s signing of the agreement between the Russian company Vympelcom and the Norwegian company Telenor on additional major Telenor investments in the development of mobile communications in Russian regions marks a positive development in this sphere. It is a promising and very fast-growing market in Russia. I think the pace and volume of growth will increase as people’s incomes grow. The trends are encouraging.
We welcome the participation of Norwegian firms in the joint development of gas condensate fields. The company Norsk Hydro is involved in the development of the Kharyaginskoye oil field. It is a partner in a production sharing agreement.
We invite you to cooperate in the development of the Shtokman gas condensate field. It could become the major Russian source of gas for the European region. A total of $15–20 billion are to be invested in its development.