27 november 2012

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, on a working visit to Paris, meets with representatives of the French business community

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has met with representatives of the French business community, among whom were CEOs of leading French companies, including Alstom, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Total, as well as representatives of the Russian business community, at the headquarters of the French Business Confederation (MEDEF).   

Speech by Dmitry Medvedev:

Mr Burelle (Jean Burelle, President of MEDEF International), ministers, ambassadors, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

I am very glad to have had this opportunity to visit the MEDEF headquarters again. Only two years have passed since my first visit here. It is not a long time. I am doing a different kind of work now, but I have closer ties with the business community in my current capacity than when I was President. This is one more reason to enjoy this meeting with you and to talk about our feelings about life. This meeting is attended by French and Russian business leaders. I absolutely agree with Mr Burelle that we share both the past and the present (although it is not always sunny) and I am sure that we will also share the future. I’d like to receive the necessary signals from you for my subsequent meetings with the Prime Minister and the President of France. I believe that this would benefit me and the interests of our cause.

You have said that the environment is not always friendly and deliberations about the crisis have become commonplace. It’s true that we have become used to this. But on the other hand, we have adapted to the new situation, which allows us to address very complicated issues. By the way, please accept my congratulations on your agreement regarding Greece. I am not confident that it is the last and final agreement, and it is a positive event despite the current situation.

Speaking about Russian-French cooperation, I’d like to say that its dynamics are very good. Trade has been growing recently, although the situation has changed a little this year. There are a number of factors behind this change, such as energy pricing, the introduction of energy-saving technologies and other factors, which call for additional analysis. But anyway, trade between our countries has been sustainably large, just as the volume of investment. It must be said that French investment in Russia is considerably larger, by tens of times, I’m sorry to say, than Russian investment in France. I think that we will have to cover the path ahead. Everything else depends on our plans and the efforts we take.

I’d like to say that the investment climate remains a priority, a key priority of the Russian Government. We have adopted the National Entrepreneurial Initiative and several other relevant documents, and we are working with foreign investors within the framework of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council. After the new Government, which I chair, was formed, we have created a special discussion platform, Open Government. In fact, it differs very little from similar agencies in other countries. Its goal is to improve interaction between civil society as a whole, between business and the Government.

I can cite a number of positive achievements of Open Government. We now discuss draft laws jointly; in the past it took us years to prepare laws, but thanks to our joint efforts we have finished the job within a matter of several months.

We now discuss draft laws jointly; in the past it took us years to prepare laws, but thanks to our joint efforts we have finished the job within a matter of several months.

As for our relations, it is clear that the presence of French investors in the Russian economy remains a priority, which is a very positive element. They are working in the energy and aerospace sectors, certainly in automobile manufacturing, trade, transport, telecommunications, housing and utilities, the food industry and high technologies. French companies continue to invest in all of these sectors.

As I have said, investment has reached a substantial sum, about $10 billion. But it is time we started looking for new forms of partnership such as asset swaps and industrial cooperation, in particular in the high-tech sectors, and joint projects in other countries. I think this is especially important in periods of global economic instability when our countries have to deal with their own challenges. This will enable us to strengthen the competitiveness of our economies and help us respond to the destructive effects of the crisis.

There are major projects in which French companies are involved. I have to mention the Sukhoi SuperJet 100 project, a plane we are designing together. We are implementing a programme of launching Soyuz carrier rockets from the French Guiana spaceport, and Renault and AvtoVAZ are strategic partners. We welcome the contribution of French investors to the development of a new tourism cluster in the Caucasus. I am supervising this project because I believe that it is vital for modernising life in the Caucasus and for using all the available resource opportunities of that area.

We will continue to develop our energy projects, which are doing well, on the whole. French partners are involved in the implementation of such projects as Nord Stream and South Stream, which are vital for Europe, and also in the development of oil and gas deposits. Plans are in place to build an LNG plant in the Yamal Peninsula. We are also implementing joint projects in the power generation and grid sectors, power engineering, and the eletrotechnical and nuclear power sectors.

We are working successfully on 29 projects within the framework of a Russian-French programme. We are happy to be able to cooperate in the sphere of high technologies in Skolkovo, which we discussed during my visit to France two years ago. The strategic partner of the Skolkovo foundation is the Sophia Antipolis technology park. The project has acquired a visible form now that construction has started and is proceeding apace. French architects AREP have come up with an interesting design of the innovation centre, which is very nice although not cheap at all. Cooperation between our export insurance agencies, Russia’s EXIAR and France’s COFACE, appears to be promising, just as support provided for research and technology projects by Russia’s Vnesheconombank and French agency OSEO.

Mr Burelle has mentioned Russia’s accession to the WTO. Indeed, it was a long and difficult road, which took us a great deal of time and effort to cover. But we have done it, and the result can be described as positive, on the whole. We believe that the WTO is an instrument which the Russian economy lacked. Of course, we will focus on our priorities, but we will also honour the regulations of the World Trade Organisation.

Our immediate task is to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). We have created a small common market; we are developing the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and a new supranational agency – the Eurasian Economic Commission – became operational on 1 February 2012. That commission has comprehensive powers in the sphere of customs and tariff regulation, non-tariff regulation, customs administration, technical regulation and the establishment of trade regimes with other countries. We plan to develop a comprehensive economic union by 1 January 2015. This opens up more opportunities for investment, including for our French friends. We believe that it is essential to become adjusted to these conditions. Of course, we are studying the EU experience, both positive experience and, to be honest, also negative experience, which is why we have no immediate plans for introducing a common currency. We will consider the issue further, although we are also working hard to create a modern financial system and to turn Moscow into a leading global financial centre, hoping that in future rouble will become one of the reserve currencies. In a word, there is much to do and many issues to discuss; we have achieved certain results and are also facing some challenges, so everything is as it should be.

Thank you again for inviting me to the MEDEF headquarters. Bon appétit! Merci beaucoup!

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A protocol on establishing the Russia-France Business Cooperation Council was signed during the meeting between Dmitry Medvedev and the French business community.

The new Russian-French organisation is called upon to generate ideas for bilateral industrial cooperation and co-production arrangements. Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin and Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall became the Council’s co-chairmen.

The Council’s members will take into account the opinions of major companies, as well as small and medium-sized businesses, during their work.