Stephen Harper: The organisation here is excellent.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. I am very glad that you like it. It is very pleasant for me to meet you and to see you here in St Petersburg in this setting – a simultaneous celebration and business meeting.
As an introduction I want to point out that over the last few years our countries’ relations have developed really quite well. I am referring to both our economic relations and our cooperation in resolving major international problems.
I want to thank your government for its constructive work concerning Russia’s accession to the WTO. Of course we realise the political processes that are taking place in your country. But at any rate, we see continuity in your approach to Russia. And I want to assure you, dear Mr Prime Minister, that Russia will also take such an approach towards Canada.
Our volume of trade is growing by around twenty or twenty-five percent each year. But in absolute terms it still remains very little. But there are good prospects, including in our economic relations, and that is one of the most important themes that we are going to discuss tonight and tomorrow. And in connection with this I certainly want to express my support for the agreements between our main gas companies, between Gazprom and a Canadian company. Petro-Canada and Gazprom are really on the threshold of implementing quite important projects. But this isn’t the only sector in which we cooperate. We have worked in and would like to increase our relations in communications and the high-tech field.
An exhibition of the work of a Canadian artist is now taking place in the Hermitage. I hope that several weeks from now the Mariinskii theatre will tour your country. And in addition to this, next year we will host a hockey championship in Moscow. I know that you are a real hockey expert. So this evening we will have the opportunity to talk about this as well.
Welcome, Mr Prime Minister.
Stephen Harper: Many thanks, Mr President for the warm welcome and for the visit to this wonderful place, not to mention the beauty of your city.
In any case, I always followed what you were doing very closely from afar, but now I am finally glad to have the opportunity to meet with you personally. And I have no doubt that we shall discuss a wide range of issues.
And as to the energy sector, well, it is an extremely important sector for both our countries and if we consider the fact that we are both northern countries and at the same time the only two G8 countries that export energy resources then we can see that we have a great deal in common. And perhaps more fundamentally, we are the unique countries that have budget surpluses. In other words, we have a range of questions to discuss. I have no doubt they include issues in the economic sphere and in global security. And afterwards I have no doubt that we will also discuss important issues such as hockey, for example, and you will let me in on your secret, how you keep your popularity at such a high level.
And so I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to discuss these questions with you and would like to once again thank you for the welcome.
Vladimir Putin: For my part I would like to ask you to transmit my best wishes to the former and acting Governor General. And I think that the former Governor General knows that we made the decision to give her a Russian award for her big contribution to developing our intergovernmental ties. We really feel that she is a friend of our country’s and are thankful to her for the work we did together and for the contribution she made towards strengthening our intergovernmental ties.