President Vladimir Putin: I would like to congratulate all of us once again on the launch of this plant and the production of the first car. Two years ago we were here in an empty field and laid the cornerstone of the future enterprise. Frankly speaking, it was hard to imagine back then that two years later the plant would already be completed and would begin operation, but here we are today at this happy event.
More than five billion roubles have been invested and more than 600 new jobs created, and this is just the first stage. There will be even more staff once the other production lines and workshops begin operation, and this means more revenue for the budget and more jobs for the population.
This is a good example of cooperation between the Russian Government, the regional authorities, and one of the world’s leading carmakers, Toyota Motor Corporation. This is a very important project not just for St Petersburg and the northwest region, but for all of Russia, because it is the first serious step towards establishing the full car production technological cycle in St Petersburg.
We expect that foreign investment will lead to Russia producing 300,000 cars a year by 2010, and this figure should reach around 1 million a year by 2011–2012. By 2015, St Petersburg alone will produce around 1 million cars a year at five plants with foreign investment.
I would like now to address Mr Mori, my old friend and the former Japanese prime minister. I would like to say that relations between Russia and Japan are growing stronger and that this also makes an important contribution to Russian-Japanese relations and raises the level of trust between our two countries. If you recall, the first time we met, we spoke about the need to develop our trade and economic ties. This year, our bilateral trade has increased by 40 percent and has reached a figure of 18.5 billion dollars.
The development of trade and economic ties without any doubt helps to create the conditions for strengthening Russian-Japanese relations in general and creates the foundation we need for resolving the other problems we have been trying to resolve for many years now, problems that I am sure we will resolve.
The company and the employees of this plant that has opened here now have the concrete tasks of satisfying the large Russian market’s demand for their products and entering the markets of European countries.
I would like to say thank you to the engineers, the workers, and everyone who helped build this enterprise. I wish you all success. I also want to give you all my best wishes as the New Year approaches. This enterprise’s staff will be lucky enough to celebrate the New Year twice – according to the Russian and Japanese calendars. Thank you.
H. Okuda (As translated): Two years ago, we laid the cornerstone of this plant. I would like to say first of all that this plant was built within two years thanks to the effort and ability of the Russian staff and the Russian designers. I was president of Toyota at the time and also president of the Japanese federation of economic organisations, Kaidanren. Now I am older and have therefore left these posts. I am sure that the company will develop its business.
As I said, I have retired now, but I was told yesterday that I have been named to be a special adviser to the prime minister, so I will still have work to do for the Government and the imperial family. I also have another responsibility in this area, namely as concerns development in the Far East, namely Primorsky Region, and this is also an area in which I am working hard at the moment.
Incidentally, I recently travelled on the Trans-Siberian railway.
Vladimir Putin: What a coincidence, I also decided to retire and everyone wants to give me new appointments, so I am going to have to keep working. I agree that the Siberian project is very important. Developing the infrastructure in the Far East is one of our priorities, so we will be working together with you on this.
K. Watanabe (As translated): For my part, I would like to thank you, Mr President, and thank everyone here today. It is thanks to your efforts that we have succeeded in building this plant in such a short time – two-and-a-half years.
I would also like to thank you, Mr President, and everyone here, for taking part in this ceremony today. This is genuinely touching.
As you noted, the Russian market has development potential and is becoming ever more important. I have a dream: to work harder in this direction and expand our business in Russia.
Vladimir Putin: This will indeed be the case, because people’s incomes here are growing by 11–12 percent a year, and this means that the opportunities for you to sell your products on the Russian domestic market will grow steadily.
Russians currently buy around 2 million cars a year, more than in India, for example, where the population is much bigger, ten times bigger, than the Russian population.
K. Watanabe (As translated): Our policy aims at protecting the environment and conserving energy. We want to use technology that respects people and respects the environment. We have already made considerable progress in this direction, and we want to use this to help Russia too.
Vladimir Putin: You need have no doubt that the level of relations that has developed today between the federal government, the regional authorities and your company will not only continue, but that we will do everything we can to ensure that your business feels at ease and in a reliable environment in Russia and that new incentives emerge for developing your production.
Yoshiro Mori (As translated): As I said at the ceremony today, this was a fine conclusion to the plant’s construction, and that this has been possible is above all thanks to the efforts of the governor of St Petersburg and the ministers present here today. But your support has been most important, Mr President, and I think it has contributed to this work.
When we met in South Korea, you said that we should build tunnels together from Hokkaido to Sakhalin.
I think that work to upgrade the Trans-Siberian railway will make a contribution to Japanese business, and I think this will have great importance for Japanese-Russian relations.
H. Okuda was named yesterday to be special adviser to the prime minister. We intend to continue our cooperation in order to upgrade the Trans-Siberian railway.
Vladimir Putin: Careerist.
Yoshiro Mori (As translated): I would like to take this opportunity to pass on Mr Yamasita’s greetings. Do you still do judo?
Vladimir Putin: Of course, he and I even recorded a video disc, a video supplement to a textbook on judo. I think it will be in the shops in January or February. The money raised will be used to fund development of children’s judo.
I am very grateful to Mr Yamasita for finding the time to come to Russia to take part in this recording. Please pass on my greetings to him.
Toyota’s arrival here is an important event in itself but it is also a good signal for other investors. When I came here I looked around and saw that General Motors is working actively on construction of its enterprise, Nissan is also moving in and then we have Hyundai and Suzuki also in line. But it is a significant event that Toyota was the first to come here.
I know how closely big Japanese business works with the country’s government, and I know that without the Japanese government’s support this project is unlikely to have been possible.
I would like to say a couple more words. I want to thank Mr Mori, who I know has worked all these years to create a favourable climate in Russian-Japanese relations. I know that he regards Russia very well and that he even has personal reasons for this: his father is buried on Russian soil. But all of our Japanese colleagues who have succeeded Mr Mori as prime minister have been committed to developing cooperation with the Russian Federation. I ask you to pass on my very best wishes to the Prime Minister.