President Dmitry Medvedev: Hello, good afternoon. Or good morning for those in Russia.
Question: Dmitry Anatolyevich, how would you assess the first two days of the G8?
Dmitry Medvedev: About as expected. We are working on the most pressing issues, the ones that concern virtually the whole planet today as well as the countries with developed economic systems – the ones in the G8. We have been talking about what virtually everyone is talking about these days: the financial crisis, the food crisis and energy security.
For example, the current financial crisis has made it quite clear that the architecture designed to ensure financial security, the architecture linking the main players in economic relations, is inadequate. The crisis that occurred last year in the United States and the ensuing crisis of financial liquidity have shown this clearly. That is why we have to think about what an international financial system might look like in the years to come.
This was the subject today in the G8 format, with the participation of the leaders of eight major economies. Various suggestions were made. A number of them, in our view, are quite interesting, and we will be discussing them further.
Regarding the food crisis, we talked about the reasons for it: increasing consumption in the world in general, the use of new types of biological fuel as a possible cause and a few others. In addition to looking into its causes, obviously we have to discuss what to do about it in the future. We talked about this too. We agreed to create special funds, and there will be assistance for those states most affected. But at the same time we need to think about how to streamline the system. In this regard, we have made two new proposals. One of them is linked to the emergence of a new format inside the G8, one that involves the ministers of agriculture of the G8 countries. This proposal was supported, along with the idea of a special session on grain issues, a so-called “Grain Summit”, which would discuss the reasons for the rise in grain prices and possible ways of stabilising the situation in this area. That’s with regard to the food crisis.
Insofar as issues of ensuring energy security are concerned, we laid particular emphasis on the solutions put forward two years ago in St Petersburg, when we talked about world energy security. Everyone agrees that this is an important issue. The challenge is to reconcile the interests of the countries that produce energy, the countries that consume it, and the ones that transport it. It is quite difficult, but it can be done. In this regard, we probably need to think about proposing some new, international solutions for this problem, a set of new international agreements. Anyway, it is clear to us that a number of international conventions such as the Energy Charter either don’t work anymore or work badly. We should talk about how to consolidate our efforts in a new way.
Question: Dmitry Anatolyevich, returning to the theme of economic security, how exactly did the discussion go and what did you personally suggest?
Dmitry Medvedev: Economic security, or financial security, let's say, and related issues… First of all we need to think about what a new architecture of international economic relations would look like. Let me say again that the current system suits virtually no one. We need to think about how to shape this architecture for the future.
For our part we have repeatedly said that the countries that belong to the G8 and other nations should move away from purely national approaches. We have to stop indulging in economic selfishness (an idea that we explored at the St Petersburg forum, and I used this phrase again today): we have to think about creating a global economic security network. This includes measures to create new economic-financial institutions and adapting the objectives and methods of existing institutions to the realities of the day. And besides, as far as work that needs doing is concerned, we believe there is a need to further develop a monetary system. Most of the countries spoke about this today. The situation today, a weak dollar and a strong euro, is not helping our partners (in fact it is not helping anyone), so we are promoting the idea, which was put forward some time ago, of making the ruble a possible reserve currency. This is certainly one innovation that we think would be helpful. But we will be talking more about it.
Question: Yesterday was a very busy day, especially in terms of bilateral meetings. Can you give us a more detailed version of how things went, especially with those countries with whom our relations are somewhat nebulous?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yesterday was a busy day and we did confer with our colleagues. Our bilateral encounters began with a meeting with the President of the United States of America, followed by one with the Federal Chancellor [of Germany], a meeting with the President of France and one with the Prime Minister of Great Britain. These were short, working meetings, the sort that normally take place in the margins of the summit, but they had a full agenda. With respect to the conversation with George Bush, we agreed that there should be no hiatus in the relationship between the Russian Federation and the United States of America. America is facing an election quite soon. Whoever wins, we are interested in normal, full, constructive relations with the American administration. I think the current American administration understands this. We shall wait and see, but in any case we have no choice: we need to strengthen our relations. Of course, there are issues on which we hold similar views, issues on the international agenda and the development of trade and economic ties. I drew our colleagues’ attention yesterday to the fact that the volume of American investment in Russia is exactly the same as Russian investment in the United States, in American plants. What does this tell us? It shows that the level of mutual investment is already significant.
By the way, the need to support investment and the inadmissibility of keeping one’s markets closed was also discussed at the summit. These are some of the more positive things.
There are subjects on which we disagree with the United States, and I talked about these yesterday. Here there has been no particular movement forward, but we continue to share our views and to maintain working contacts on these matters.
As for the other meetings, we discussed a lot of different issues. Much of the time was devoted to preliminary discussions on the major issues of the summit: we talked about food security, financial and economic problems, energy, the environment and of course about climate change.
I met with the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The meeting lasted quite a while, since we have had no contacts for a considerable time. It was a relaxed meeting, quite a good one, I would say. We discussed the problems affecting our relations, joint projects and the challenges our countries face. In any case, the conversation was useful. That’s how we would characterise it. I think the British side feels the same way about it. Our contacts will of course continue.
Question: Dmitry Anatolyevich, is there a common understanding among leaders of the G8 about the reasons for the food crisis? What was said about biofuels in this connection?
Dmitry Medvedev: We know the reasons for it. But everyone puts the emphasis on different things. For example, we know that, based on a report by the World Bank, 75 percent of the growth in food prices has been caused by the expense of new fuels. These are the so-called first generation biofuels, which, in fact, in some cases have replaced agricultural products, from which food is produced. I want to emphasise that this is not our position but the one taken by the World Bank. We were just talking about this subject, and some of my colleagues were surprised because they had not heard this figure.
But there are other factors: a significant portion of the increase in the price of food has been caused by an increase in consumption in several large states such as China, India and so on. Therefore, we have not yet determined definitively the most important factor in the increase in food prices, but in any case we know the range of problems this has occasioned. And we have agreed to go to work on all these factors. That was certainly the main result of our conversation on the food crisis.
What do I have in mind? If we take, for example, biofuels: everyone knows, even those now producing significant amounts of them, such as the United States and a few other countries, that in the short term we need to move on to biofuels of the so-called second generation. That is, to biofuels that won’t take over arable fields or those agricultural facilities that are designed to produce food.
Question: You discussed the problem of a Middle East settlement with Gordon Brown. Can you tell us how things went and whether there will be a conference in Moscow on the subject?
Dmitry Medvedev: We did discuss this topic with the Prime Minister of Great Britain. All of our colleagues supported a conference in Moscow. It is now up to the immediate parties to the Middle East conflict. I hope that we can come to an agreement. We regard this conference as both necessary and useful. Once again I repeat: those involved in the process of mediation to resolve the conflict support the idea of such a conference. We all see it as a continuation of the conference that was held in Annapolis, those meetings that took place in Annapolis. I think we agreed to hold this conference in the near future. I think that it would be useful and, most importantly, this idea has the support of all parties.
Question: Dmitry Anatolyevich, this is your first time here as president, your first chance to meet at the G8 with the main players on the world stage. Can you give us your personal sense of what it’s like to be here? Have you had a chance to develop some sort of fellow feeling, some kind of relation of trust with each other? What can you tell us about personal relationships with other leaders? What is your overall impression?
Dmitry Medvedev: This is precisely what the G8 was designed for, so that the leaders of the world’s largest economies, the largest countries, could get together and come up with some creative solutions to problems. Incidentally, I note that the birth of the G8 was connected with the energy crisis, which erupted in Europe in mid-70s. We were reminded of this today. So we revisited, albeit on a different level, the same issues that preoccupied the G8 from the outset.
With respect to my colleagues, my comrades, I had already met a number of them so that this was not our first encounter. Others I had never met before. But the most important thing in this situation is that we communicate informally, wearing ties or dressed more casually, that we call each other by name. Not resorting constantly to titles and positions also facilitates contacts. In this sense, communication is easier, more productive, and you can say anything you like, believe me. You can talk sitting at the round table, or you can withdraw a little and whisper in someone’s ear to ask if something is possible or not. In this sense, it is a unique format and very helpful for clarifying our joint positions.
Question: What do you think of Japanese food?
Dmitry Medvedev: Excellent. Don’t you like it? Well, why are we talking about it then? The Japanese are good cooks.
Question: And what food do you like most?
Dmitry Medvedev: Japanese food, you mean?
Question: No, in general.
D. Medvedev: That is a difficult question… I like good food. Russian food when it is done thoroughly, Japanese food is excellent, as is European food. The main thing is that the preparation be first rate and that the ingredients not be genetically modified.
All the best!