Opening Remarks at a Meeting with Representatives of the Political, Business and Cultural Circles of Canada 2002-02-15 00:01:36 Luzhniki Sports Complex, Moscow Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, When I met Mr Jean Chretien in Canada in 2000, he told me about the practice in the Canadian business community of forming large parties including the heads of the county’s regions, which once a year go to the country Canada considers to be a promising partner. And of course I immediately said we would like such a high-powered delegation to come to Russia. We agreed with Mr Chretien then that you would come to Moscow. True, he said that you had already made your schedule for 2001, but he promised that in 2002 he would bring a delegation to Russia, provided of course Russia and Canada and the world economy developed in the right direction. The fact that you are here today is a very good sign that everything is going according to plan. And I can say without exaggeration that it is a great honour for us, for the Russian business community, for the policy-makers of Russia and for Russia in general. We welcome you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you very much. Our meeting is taking place in the hall that saw historic hockey matches between the Soviet team and Canadian professionals 30 years ago. And to stick with sporting terminology, today we are hosting a top professional league team, which includes leading politicians and the leaders of Canadian business. This line-up goes a long way to determining Canada’s position in the world. These are the people who decide how Canada should react to events in the world, not only in economics, but in politics too. So I will permit myself to speak not only about the economic aspects of our interaction, although I think that is the main thing, but to speak about a broader agenda. I cordially welcome all of you. I welcome your wish to discuss issues of concern to both of us. Issues of interest to the whole world. Such an approach is the shortest way to partnership and confidence and hence to mutually beneficial relations both in politics and in business. Canada and Russia are the northern giants of the two continents, of the Old and New Worlds. And there is a profound basis for that remarkable similarity. They have vast territories and similar state structures, a harsh climate and, of course, a special love of hockey. Our confidence is cemented by common roots, which partly come from the European civilization. We have many common features that unite us and that come from the culture of northern peoples. But of course our cultural ties are based on the fundamental principles of European civilization and European culture. They have taken root in original cultures but to this day their main aspirations are shared by our two peoples. The aspirations to democracy, the shared wish to see the world as a prosperous, stable and secure place. Today we are keenly aware that world security and economic stability are indivisible. Russia has a very keen interest in cooperating with Canada. We value the effectiveness of our joint projects with Canada. For many years we have seen real economic returns on them. We are grateful for the assistance in training managerial personnel that Canada was one of the first to offer Russia in the early 1990s, and continues to render today. Canada’s experience was another example of federalism for Russia and provided the basis for solving many complicated constitutional problems in our country during the evolution of Russian democracy and the Russian Federation. Our country is interested in effective cooperation. It is already proceeding on a multilateral basis. I would like to note the progress achieved in implementing the programs of training and retraining of graduate specialists, joint education projects, the development of school, student and scientific exchanges. These forms of work have proved to be effective and we devoted a considerable time yesterday to these aspects of our interaction. And I am very grateful to the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr Chretien, for keeping it under constant review, and yesterday he initiated the discussion of these topics. However, I think it is important at this meeting here to single out our contacts in the field of economics. They are several decades old. But they are only now becoming truly open in market conditions, in conditions where free enterprise laws are in force. Regional cooperation is most successful in housing construction. Also in mining, oil and gas, agriculture, transport and communications and aviation. Russia today has about 400 Russian-Canadian joint ventures. Besides which, Canadian capital is actively involved in 80 economic projects. Most of these are being implemented in the regions of the Russian Federation. This is one of the key areas of our business cooperation. Last year the northern aspects of cooperation came to the fore, which is reasonable for our countries, which have vast northern territories. Mr Chretien and I yesterday signed a number of documents that laid down the main long-term parameters for our bilateral relations, including in the trade and economic sphere. We also discussed the main parameters of the new investment agreement. But if business is to be successful, it is not so much agreements at the summit level but a favourable business climate inside the country that is essential. Of course, the legal basis is also important. But the practice of law enforcement is also important and we are very well aware of that. Thanks to the constructive cooperation between the legislative and executive branches of government in Russia laws have been passed whose absence in the past decade has been a brake on economic development in Russia. We believe that the positive impact of last year’s decisions will be felt in the middle or the end of the year. Last year our federal budget already reported a stable surplus. We have steadily been reducing taxes and fighting bureaucracy in economics and in government. We are committed to doing so in future. Today Russia is coming to grips with many of the economic problems with which Canada has a lot of positive experience. One example is the attitude to the export of commodities. Canada gradually imposed restrictions on the export of oil and gas from the country. Russia, as you know, is today the leading exporter of energy resources. In terms of conventional energy units, Russia is in first place in the world. By the way, we discussed it yesterday at an informal meeting with the Prime Minister. And I absolutely agree with him that this offers a good field for cooperation. Given the situation in the world, especially in the regions of traditional energy export – we know what situation is shaping up there – the world economy needs stable supplies of energy resources. Canada and Russia could play a significant role in that. But we understand very well that commodity exports must be complemented with products from other sectors. And I am convinced that economic cooperation with Canada would be very helpful for us. There are still some outstanding problems in our trade and economic relations. We discussed them yesterday, too. Above all, mutual trade: sadly, this is shrinking and although the existing legal documents offer every opportunity for the access of goods to the markets of both countries, we frequently face problems. For example, the restrictive measures applied by Canada with regard to Russian steel practically shut Russian producers out of the Canadian market. Both countries are losers in strategic terms, not only the Russian side, but the consumers of our steel, which is of high quality and competitive in the Canadian market. So to enlist the support of the Canadian business community on our side, I would like there to be an awareness that it is in our common interests to promote cheap and high quality goods to the Canadian market. I would like to say firmly: Russia is ready for broader business relations with Canada. I am sure that today, after visiting Russia, Canadian businessmen will decide in favour of broader business cooperation. Not least, this relates to Russian efforts to access to the WTO on terms that are acceptable to us. I am sure that in that case the problems I have just mentioned would be resolved much more effectively. Dear friends, the Canadian Federation is one of the oldest in the world. But it is developing dynamically, successfully coping with the problems that for a long time have also been stumbling blocks here in Russia. Relations between the regions and the federal center are a special subject of discussion. They are multifarious and require that all interests be taken into account. Unfortunately, tensions frequently arise here. Tension is the flip side of federalism. In this sphere both you and we have to grapple with a two-fold task: to give leeway to the regions while at the same time strengthening the single state. We continue to follow closely the development of federalism in your country, and we see that you are working on serious and complicated problems of federalism without suffering from crises that weaken the state and all its systems. It is a very good example for Russia. Russia and Canada, like any federated states in the world, have no option but to move forward through uncharted territory. But Russia has its own traditions, and its own mistakes and achievements in this field. We understand your interest in Russian decisions, including those that are novel to our political life, by which I mean the creation of federal districts, the institution of the President’s Plenipotentiary Representatives, etc. However diverse our approaches may be to federative policy, we obviously seek to strengthen the state, create an effective model of relations between the regions and the federal center and ensure that citizens in our countries, throughout the territory, have equal rights. Mr Prime Minister, dear colleagues, The results of our Moscow meeting are very good. More than 50 contracts have been signed to the tune of over a billion dollars. It shows that our partnership is mature and that we can make effective use of our mutual sympathy and the similarity of our approaches to solve many problems. But we also understand that the interconnection of our economies requires the strengthening of the new arrangement of the world, free of Cold War cliches and the fear of non-existent threats. The international community must see the real threats and protect itself against terrorism and strengthen regional security. It must fight arms smuggling and money laundering, the spread of narcotics and illegal immigration. Such a system of measures must not only contain effective international legal instruments, but a corresponding organisation of international markets. It must include coordinated government policies with regard to terrorism and with regard to the countries which are included on the lists of so-called “rogue states”. Yes, we may have serious differences with the leaders of these countries on international matters, but that is no reason for projecting these differences with governments onto relations with their peoples and put them on “black lists”. The root of the problem is the need to change and improve the social and economic conditions of these countries; the need to overcome poverty and backwardness and eliminate the negative impact of globalization on these countries. That is why I ardently support the Canadian Prime Minister’s wish to put the problems of the poorest countries, including those of Africa, at the top of the agenda of the future G8 meeting in Canada. I would like to stress that the legal and organisational systems for fighting terrorism must be formed under the aegis of the UN. We assign a special place to the G8, not least as the most effective institution of political and business partnership. We believe that the next summit in Canada could make progress on the most acute international policy issues. We attach great significance to Russian-Canadian interaction within these influential international and regional structures. A country’s colours are always defended by united teams, the teams of Canada and Russia and other countries. These teams include the best and strongest. And I wish your businessmen and politicians who today form a symbolic united Canadian team to display team spirit in their work; the spirit and principles that bring tangible success and create a basis for partnership, which helps to scale the highest, Olympic, peaks. These principles are confidence and reliability. They enable people and countries and communities to cooperate effectively. Without them, it is impossible to succeed in any field of human endeavour. That is a test of the quality of relations. I am sure that the result of such a test in the case of Russian-Canadian partnership will be positive. Thank you very much for your attention and thank you for being here with us in Moscow today.