President Vladimir Putin: (Speaking to Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov) As I was just saying to Alexander Grigoryevich [Lukashenko] before, and as he noted himself too, our bilateral trade hit a record high of $25 billion last year. As far as I know, you discussed this in quite some detail recently with the Belarusian prime minister.
Viktor Zubkov: Our bilateral trade is indeed on the increase and I think that we can push the figure even higher than $25 billion.
Vladimir Putin: (Addressing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko) Alexander Grigoryevich, what is your evaluation of our cooperation over the last year?
Alexander Lukashenko: Good. We were able to settle any issues that came up.
Good luck also played its part a little. As you know, food prices have jumped up all around the world and, unfortunately, they have been rising in our countries too, but people in the countryside nonetheless had the opportunity to make some extra income, and we have therefore been able to settle practically all the issues regarding supplies from Belarus.
In fact, demand is growing all the time and Russians are now proposing themselves that we sign contracts. In this area, everything is on track as far as agricultural machinery and trucks are concerned. Work is going ahead as normal.
As for the economic side of things, the situation is levelling out, but we still see rising energy prices in our country and around the world in general. We are keeping the situation under control, keeping particular close watch on some areas, regulating things where necessary. There is no alternative, after all, until the situation stabilises. I can but thank you for showing understanding with regards to these issues.
I met the day before yesterday with Sergei Stepashin [president of the Russian Chamber of Auditors]. We agreed that both control agencies would examine our border, on your side and ours, examine the situation in full, so as to be able to remove unnecessary barriers within our union state.
Vladimir Putin: There are a lot of barriers still in place today.
Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, they realise this and they are working on this issue. We instructed them last year to look into this and they have now begun work.
Vladimir Putin: (Speaking to First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev) Dmitry Anatolyevich, do supplies from Belarus come under the Agriculture National Project?
Dmitry Medvedev: Our priority, of course, is to invest in our own agricultural sector, because that is the project’s goal – to make our agricultural sector more productive.
Vladimir Putin: No, what I mean here is when agricultural enterprises take out loans, say. Are they buying agricultural machinery from Belarus?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, they are, because it is of a high quality and competitively priced.
Alexander Lukashenko: The prices are two times as cheap and the quality is decent.
Viktor Zubkov: We have opened all the local dairy plants. During the autumn supplies from Belarus stopped. Now we have begun working quite well. We have our two deputy prime ministers, Sergei Naryshkin and Andrei Kobyakov, and we now have permanent commissions that are examining all the issues related to foodstuffs and agricultural equipment. A positive process is underway.
Dmitry Medvedev: Agricultural businesses are buying quite a lot of equipment now. This is a direct result of the fact that decent money is coming into the sector, sizeable investment, and the domestic market is growing.