President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen! Dear colleagues!
I am very glad to see you in Russia in the Kremlin. Given yesterday's tragic events in Italy, I must begin with words of condolences. We are grieving at the high human cost of the devastating earthquake. We hope that you will be able to quickly help all those affected by it. The Russian Federation is certainly ready to provide all possible technical assistance and assist with the rescue. I must say that we have our own experience in this field, and it is not negligible. This is a sad event. Once again I want to say that our thoughts are with you.
Now a few words about our meeting. First of all, I would like to thank you for coming to the Russian Federation to meet with the leadership of Russia, with your colleagues and – as I understand it – to conclude a number of agreements that have already been prepared (some have been signed and others may be in the future). Of course your visit is particularly valuable in light of the tragedy that occurred in Italy. I would like to specifically thank you for this: despite the difficulties in your country, you are nevertheless in Russia to help the development of business relations between our countries.
In recent years we have been able to expand our cooperation quite significantly. Our trade is such that it would earn the respect of any state and stand up well when measured against any amount of cooperation between different countries. I am referring to our trade last year – 50 billion USD or even a little more – this is a very good figure.
It is particularly gratifying that Russian-Italian business relations –50 billion dollars of trade – are not only a reflection of growth in energy prices (and here our countries do have a great deal of ties). They reflect other investments and the growth of trade in various sectors: in mechanical engineering, light industry, in the trade of technological products, the creation of new high-tech products and, in general, in all areas in which we cooperate today. This is very gratifying.
I hope that the crisis that is currently preventing us all from living normally does not have a large impact on the extent of our cooperation although, of course, it will be affected.
As you know, my Italian colleague and I were just at the G20 summit in London. I can, as they say, tell you first-hand about what happened there if you have not yet had time to talk about this with Italian leaders (although I do see our colleagues here: Mr Minister and Valentino Valentini [Adviser to the Chairman of the Council of Italian Ministers on International Affairs]).
In general, I would say that the G20 sent out a positive signal. And I initially had quite pessimistic expectations. Strictly speaking, the communique that we prepared is quite different from the Washington Declaration because it is not just a set of principles, but rather very specific proposals to combat the crisis. First and foremost it concerns, of course, the global economy, including the reconstruction or – to put it more clearly – radical modernisation of existing international financial architecture, as well as amendments to the role of the IMF, World Bank and other international organisations that determine the global financial architecture.
You know that we negotiated an unprecedented package of assistance for a number of states that have suffered from the effects of the financial crisis: 1,100 billion dollars. But most importantly, I did not feel that pessimism was weighing down on our meeting.
Furthermore, everyone would agree: the fact that states are now attempting to solve global challenges when, 10–20 years ago it was impossible to imagine them at the same table, seems to me to be a positive sign and evidence that we can make major changes and remove almost all the consequences of this crisis in the short-term. I hope, of course, that we are not talking about decades, but rather about this year or next.
So how quickly we will achieve this or advance our activities is directly related to your business in Russia because it is part of the international economy and, we must say, not the worst part. We do indeed have very warm relations with Italian business circles. I tell you this not because you are standing in front of me, but because this really is the case. We have a truly special relationship with the Italian business community and we would like to see these relationships develop and grow stronger.
Today you met with the government cabinet and I understand that you met with your Russian colleagues both today and yesterday. I am particularly pleased to note that all sectors of Italian industry and the Italian economy are represented here, and that you have direct counterparts in Russia. And whatever area we take, be it energy, industrial cooperation or trade, every one is developing very well.
And one more observation that I think reflects the very high level of our cooperation. Italian business is present not only in Moscow and St Petersburg but also in other regions of the Russian Federation. And this is much harder because – to speak frankly – there the business infrastructure is significantly worse and work may be more difficult. But the fact that you are not afraid and are moving into the Russian outback, rural Russia, is very precious. We appreciate this and believe that it is the right thing to do. Just as I think it is an excellent thing that contacts between business communities are not confined to ties between big business. Today we have contacts between medium-sized businesses and even small businesses. Small and medium business is the foundation of the well-being of any nation. Depending on how small and medium businesses are able to withstand the crisis, we will know how fast we can overcome its negative consequences.
I want to warmly thank you once again for having come to Russia at this time, that during such a hard time for Italians you are continuing to work. I hope that this will further stimulate the development of friendly relations between our countries and peoples.