President Vladimir Putin:
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to Moscow.
For many of us, this is not the first time we have met. Many of us have already met in The Hague in 2005.
Many positive events have taken place over these two years. In 2006, the Netherlands accounted for almost 9 percent of the Russian Federation’s overall trade. We have set a good pace in work on important joint projects. These projects are, of course, chiefly in the energy sector. As you know, and some of you were directly involved in preparing this decision, a Dutch company has now joined the North European Gas Pipeline project.
I just now had the chance to have a brief talk with the president of Shell, and he said that he is happy with the way work on Sakhalin is going. This is good to hear. But as the Prime Minister and I discussed today, both of our countries are interested not just in developing energy resource exports and imports but also in exchanging energy-efficient and energy conservation technology. We seek to develop our relations in different sectors and look for new opportunities, including, above all, in science and technology, in the science-intensive sectors.
As you know, the Russian economy is growing rapidly – at a rate of around 7 percent a year over the last 6 years, and 7.7 percent for the first three quarters of this year. The energy sector now accounts for only one third of this overall growth. Sectors such as the processing industry, machine building, retail, services, construction and finance account for two thirds of the growth.
Some segments in the machine-building sector are growing at a rate of 25 percent per year, likewise in the construction sector, and the increase in housing construction is even higher – 34 percent this year. We have also achieved some positive results in the agriculture sector. All of this shows that new opportunities for cooperation are now opening up.
We hope not only to attract Dutch investment but also to expand our cooperation in general, establish new joint production and introduce new technology that could be brought into Russia in order to turn a good profit. We hope, of course, that turning a good profit will go hand in hand with development of Russia’s economy, and so we are ready to do everything we can to support cooperation.
The Russian-Dutch Business Cooperation Council has a particular part to play in this respect. Work on its organisation is nearly complete now and I hope that it will play an important part in developing our trade and economic ties.
We are pleased to see that economic activity is not limited to the big cities, to Moscow and St Petersburg, but that an increasing number of ties are developing with the Russian regions. The founding of the Dutch Business Support Centre in Yekaterinburg is an important event in this respect and I think that the opening of this Dutch trade office in the Urals region will expand the range of opportunities for work together.
We are grateful to the Dutch Government for its help in providing training for young Russian company directors. I think that these young people constitute a human resource reserve that we can also draw on in our work together. We are working consistently to create ever more favourable conditions for business and investment. It is a good sign that the world’s three leading ratings agencies have just recently once again raised Russia’s investment rating. I wish you success and I hope for interesting and fruitful work together.