Speech and Answers to Questions at the Russian-Malaysian Business Forum 2003-08-05 15:13:00 Kuala Lumpur Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to welcome everyone here, at the opening of the Russian-Malaysian Business Forum. Participants will discuss very important issues of economic cooperation, which are the basis of our bilateral relations. Meetings like the one today are further proof of our mutual interest, and the real return we get from our joint business contacts. Today mutually beneficial ties between Russia and Malaysia are growing stronger. From the Russian point of view, they are a good example of relations with countries of the Asia-Pacific region. The Russia-Malaysia Business Council also began its work. Its founding is also a sign of the fruitful development of our contacts. The initiative to organise this council came from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. We realised it together, and expect that the Council will take on the organisation of strategic interaction between business communities of both countries, and will generate new ideas and real mechanisms of long-term business cooperation. A firm basis for such a promising approach has been prepared. For the last ten years, our trade and economic relations have not just developed swiftly. Most importantly, they have changed in both quality and structure. As a result of these growth rates of trade turnover, Russia now occupies the second place on the Malaysian market, after Japan. And although the trade turnover still needs to be improved and developed, it is still insufficient, the growth rates are positive. Major articles of Malaysian export in Russia are electronics, wood processing industry production, and various consumer goods. The broadening of our cooperation will undoubtedly be helped by the future development of the Russian and Malaysian economies. However, the necessary steps in this direction are already being made today. We plan to sign two inter-governmental agreements – on scientific and technical cooperation and on cooperation in the area of information and telecommunications technology. The Russian Minister of Industry, Science and Technology and the Minister of Communications and Information, who are present here, will, like their Malaysian colleagues actively assist the business circles in the realisation of these projects. Currently, all the conditions exist to realise these agreements. This includes a high-quality legal basis that is the foundation of a favourable investment climate. I must also mention a major contract in the area of military and technical cooperation – the proposed delivery of Russian SU-30MKM planes to Malaysia. I expect that after the Malaysian “flying space”, other Russian aviation equipment may be moved into the Southeast Asian region with more success. When I was talking to the Prime Minister just now, I told him about the development of the Russian aviation industry. It is being developed in Russia in close contact with our foreign partners, above all with our European partners. We have developed one military plane together with the Italians, and are finishing a second with our French colleagues. And I am very pleased that here, in Asia, we have such good partners. We also have good experience of cooperation in the aerospace industry. For example, the Malaysian scientific satellite TiungSat-1 was put into orbit with the help of Russian carrier rockets. Evidently, it is worth thinking about continuing this cooperation that is of such importance for our countries. One of these tendencies was just outlined by Prime Minister Mahathir at a brief bilateral meeting. He talked about long-distance probing of the Earth and the planned launch of Malaysian spacecraft for this purpose. I would also like to make separate mention of cooperation in the banking sphere. The Russian Vneshtorgbank signed an agreement on an open line of credit with the Expert and Import Bank of Malaysia. The joint projects of Ingosstrakh and the Malaysian Export Credit Insurance Corporation will also bring undoubted benefit to business contacts. One thing is absolutely clear: Russia and Malaysia, by developing their business contacts, strengthen cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. This includes the Russia-ASEAN dialogue and within the framework of APEC. All this enables peace, stability and security to be consolidated here. To conclude my comments on our joint projects, I would like to note that one of the serious guarantees of their successful development is a favourable situation in the Russian economy. Our country, as you know, shows quite high and stable rates of economic growth. In the first half of this year, the growth of GDP exceeded 7%. We have laid sound legislative foundations that are necessary for the reconstruction of basic branches of the economy and to increase their competitiveness. In areas where there is competition, where there are equal rights for all market participants, we have high growth rates and a reduction of prices on services. A good example is the telecommunications market. Of course, we still have many problems, but we will solve them through our own efforts, at the same time expanding economic cooperation with foreign partners, such as Malaysia. I would like to thank you for your attention, and wish everyone present success in their work on the interesting and ambitious projects that lie ahead for business circles of Russia and Malaysia. Question: Does Russia plan to relax its entry visa system, as the current system sometimes holds up the development of economic ties with Malaysia? Vladimir Putin: I think that you have touched on an issue that is extremely important today for the development of business. Especially today, because on the one hand these issues need to be solved urgently, and on the other hand, new problems continue to arise which hamper progress on these issues. Clearly, this is connected with the activity of terrorist organisations. As you know, some countries are restricting their visa service and movement of citizens. At the same time, I do not think we should restrict contacts between people. We should take another path: the special services and law-enforcement bodies should work better. But problems connected with the war on terror should not hinder the development of business ties. In this sense, I agree with you completely that we should at least simplify the possibilities for contact between certain categories of citizens of various countries around the world, and especially of countries where relations are developing as positively as they are between Russia and Malaysia. I would single out several categories of citizens who should be granted special privileges. I mean above all the business circles and also politicians, who create conditions for your work. And thirdly, of course, there are young people, who are taking various courses of study, above all students. There are currently 400 students from Malaysia studying in Russia, and the Prime Minister and I just talked about the necessity of increasing this number, and changing tendencies for training. I am sure that at least these three categories should be given special preferences, and we will work together on this. Question: What role can Russia play in building fair multi-lateral trade and other relations between countries? Vladimir Putin: You have asked a question of a global nature. I think that the beginning of the answer should also be global. I think that business relations should be based on favourable, developing international ties, and above all on a basis that is capable of strengthening economic ties. In our opinion, this basis may be provided by a multi-polar world – a world where international law and practice drawn up by leading international organisations are in force. Without the consolidation of an international law system, it is impossible to talk of a just nature of international economic ties. The consolidation of this international law system and multi-polar world, taking into account the interests of all countries and peoples, regardless of the size of the country and its economic and political power, is a compulsory condition for the development of international democratic order in the economy. This is the first point. And the second, of course, is that modern mechanisms of direct economic interaction and international finances need to be improved. Russia, which even geographically is a part of both the European and Asian continents, takes a very active part in the work of all kinds of international forums. I am not just talking about participation in the UN, but also in European and Asian organisations. Soon the APEC forum will be held in Thailand, where Russia will also be represented. But there is also another area within which Russia will uphold these principles. It has an informal character, but its voice is very authoritative – the G8. I would like to assure you that Russia will firmly keep to the principles that I have just outlined.