Russian President Vladimir Putin: I am happy to welcome to Moscow such important members of the Italian business community! We have come to know many of those present over the course of the years.
It is gratifying that the leading companies and banks that you represent are consistently expanding their presence in the Russian Federation. Exactly one month ago in Russia a long electoral marathon came to an end. Italians are a passionate people: there is always some sort of political event going on in your country. In just a few days you will be holding your parliamentary election ahead of schedule. Given the common goal of strengthening the Russian-Italian partnership, I would also like to discuss long-term prospects, but I should say at the outset that, no matter what internal political events take place in either Russia or Italy, our business partnership continues to grow and expand. This is very encouraging.
For our country, Italy has been and remains one of our leading trade and economic partners in Europe, and the further development of what have traditionally been our sustained, pragmatic, economic ties will in large measure determine the future of Russian-Italian relations as a whole. I note that last year the volume of bilateral trade between our two countries increased considerably. More importantly, it reached the record level of $36 billion. This significant result was achieved not only by augmenting the supply of Russian energy, but also by increasing Italian exports by 150 percent.
There has been a breakthrough agreement in the energy sector. Here, Russian and Italian energy concerns have taken an impressive and mutually beneficial step: they have begun asset-sharing. This, in turn, increased the possibility of moving into domestic markets.
The South Stream project opens up new prospects for cooperation to strengthen European energy security, as does the Sukhoi Superjet 100 project illustrating how important it is to coordinate efforts when working with the latest technologies. And when I mention energy, I mean not only hydrocarbons, but also the electricity sector. My colleagues here know what I am talking about: multi-billion dollar investments in Russia’s electrical energy sector. This represents an important, visible, tangible step in the expansion of cooperation between Italy and Russia and between Russia and our European partners in general. Also underway are a number of major cooperative projects in transport, space, communications and industrial cooperation. We are studying the question of Italian companies’ participation in large-scale infrastructure projects in Russia. Work on creating industrial zones in Russia is going ahead, and Italian experience in this regard has been very helpful.
Significant positive developments have emerged in the banking sector, particularly with regards to Italian banks’ lending to small and medium Russian businesses. At the same time, economic growth in Russia and tangible improvement in the investment and business climate have already allowed us to proceed with the integrated planning of joint activities, planning for the longer term. One of the strategic areas here is to stimulate investment, especially direct investment.
We will continue to pursue policies to promote and facilitate the activities of foreign investors, including by administrative regulation and legislation concerning investment. Here we already have a significant result: major international economic institutions have recognised Russia as one of the countries most attractive for foreign direct investment. According to the world's rating agencies, Russia's sovereign investment rating has consistently improved. As a result, in 2007 the domestic economy received nearly $121 billion in FDI, almost 2.2 times more than in 2006. And on 1 January 2008, the accumulated volume of investments amounted to $220.6 billion, an increase of 54.3 percent compared to 1 January 2007. Of this increase, direct investment amounted to $103.1 billion, and indirect investment to $6.7 billion.
I want to emphasise that we see Italy as a reliable and forward-looking investor in the Russian economy. I would like to propose today to discuss specific questions about expanding our partnership with new initiatives.
Concerning more substantive development of these and other projects, discussions can be held in the upcoming fifth round of intergovernmental consultations, scheduled for the second half of this year.
Ladies and gentlemen! We are open to close and multi-faceted cooperation with Italian business, and I am confident that today's meeting will give this cooperation added impetus. Thus far things have gone pretty well, and I have no doubt whatsoever that they will continue to improve.
Thank you for your attention. I would like to conclude this extended monologue here and invite you to take part in the subsequent discussions.
PRESIDENT OF CONSTRUCTION GROUP TODINI FINANZIARIA AND CO-CHAIR OF THE RUSSIAN-ITALIAN CIVIL SOCIETY DIALOGUE FORUM LUISA TODINI: Dear Mr President!
It is a great honour and a real pleasure to be here today in your personal residence.
Seated at this table are the leading members of the Italian business community. Their presence here constitutes proof of the tremendous interest in cooperation between our countries.
We are extremely grateful to you for the contribution that you have made to the development of our economic relations. Thanks to you, your economic policies and the work of your team, GDP growth in Russia now exceeds 8 percent (this is much higher than in many other countries), notwithstanding the financial crisis now raging in the world.
You referred to a doubling of foreign investment in 2007, which exceeded $120 billion. Italian exports were more than €10 billion. Imports reached €14,35 billion. As such the volume of trade between our countries grew by 12.7 percent. These figures clearly show that our economies are becoming more interdependent.
I am not going to enumerate all the projects represented by these leading figures from Italian business. They can talk about those projects themselves and perhaps lay out in more detail any specific initiatives that they have.
I believe that our visit is the key to increasing the volume of cooperation. You talked about small and medium business. We believe that we are exporting our know-how concerning such activities.
I wish to stress that both our countries have recently been chosen to stage major world events: in 2014 the Winter Olympic Games will be held in Russia; two days ago Italy won the right to hold Expo 2015 in Milan. We can only rejoice for the city of Sochi, and its opportunity to hold the Winter Olympics. I think this will constitute an important contribution to our activities.
Mr President, once again thank you for the welcome. We would very much like you to visit Italy soon. And we look forward to the development of the relations between our peoples.