Vladimir Putin: First of all I want to congratulate you on your decision to start producing in Russia. I want to congratulate you on today’s celebration connected with laying the first stone in what will become your factory.
Valentina Matvienko: We worked together with shovels.
Vladimir Putin: It doesn’t look like you worked with shovels.
Richard Wagoner: (back translation) We tried very hard.
Vladimir Putin: In any event, to be able to make that symbolic gesture with shovels you had to do a great deal of preparation. And you engaged in fundamental, productive and constructive work. I want to say that we see how international automobile companies are paying more attention to Russia and to the northwestern part of the country. And I believe that this is not by chance. Here there is a port, well-developed infrastructure, qualified personnel and the municipal authorities want to work together and to provide assistance. The arrival of your company, General Motors, is a good sign for future Russian-American relations, for the future development of our economic cooperation. We value this and you should have no doubts that we will do everything we can to promote the development of the project that you started today.
I know that President Bush is paying a great deal of attention to this. Some time ago he met with representatives from the Russian business community. I am confident that this will be one of the themes in our meeting tomorrow and during the G8 summit in St Petersburg.
Richard Wagoner: First, please let me thank you for taking the time to meet with us. I understand that you have a very intense schedule today. For us this is a really important and festive day because we declared that we will start producing from nothing. This implies that one hundred percent of the production will take place here. I am confident that Mr Putin knows that we have production units in many countries and therefore we are able to compare how easy it is to work with local or federal governments in a given country. And I would especially like to thank the Governor and the Ministry [of Economic Development and Trade] because with their help and with your support work proceeded very quickly and we were able to get this project under way. Today at the press conference I saw how the Governor works, how she can control a situation and make the correct decisions. I was convinced that she can oversee the project to its completion, something that I value very highly.
I wanted to draw your attention to what you said today because this is something that should be repeated from our side. The significant economic growth and the corresponding opportunities are very attractive to us. And this is yet one more source of support among those you heard at our meeting with the heads of companies. People really want to invest in Russia and are ready to do so because they see steady growth here.
Vladimir Putin: How much are you planning to invest in St Petersburg?
Richard Wagoner: In the first stages we plan to produce 25 thousand machines per year. This year we plan to sell 100 thousand machines. So we hope this will be a step towards further developing production. By the way, in addition to increasing our assembly production one of the areas in which we see excellent prospects is increasing our supply base. This is where we see our business’ future.
Vladimir Putin: How would you evaluate agreements with the government concerning locating this enterprise in all its separate components in Russia?
Richard Wagoner: Until now our suppliers were basically foreign suppliers whereas just a few of them were national ones. But we see significant prospects linked to increasing the number of national suppliers. It is for this reason that we can see that this project has a lot of potential to grow. The development of different technical schools, training engineering personnel, increasing research and development – I see interesting prospects in all these fields.
If I could just mention one more topic, and please excuse me because I know how busy you are today, I would like to emphasize that the new manufacturing plant that we are opening should be seen as an addition to a joint venture [with Avtovaz] that is already operational. So I wanted to talk about this separately. It is an additional project. From General Motors’ point of view the joint venture is a very successful joint project. And for our part we are ready and interested to continue working on and investing in this project.