Vladimir Putin and Sergei Sidorsky delivered a joint statement to the press following a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State
30 january 2009
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
Today we held this year's first meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State. We arranged it with Mr Sidorsky a few days ago and convened shortly afterwards.
Summing up the results of our meeting, I have mentioned that today's work was of exceptional relevance. Indeed, we have a lot to do, and we need to promptly adjust our plans to the changing situation - even more so because this year has just begun and we needed to coordinate our joint plans.
We focused on finding ways of further developing cooperation and integration between our countries, which is especially relevant during this challenging period. I am sure that our joint efforts will help minimise the effect of the global financial crisis, mainly through developing production cooperation and boosting trade.
In my opening remarks today I mentioned that last year the trade turnover between our countries reached a record level of $34 billion. In the future, too, we need to make the most effective use of the advantages of our integration to create new jobs and expand markets for our industrial products.
We have confirmed mutual intention to continue our efforts to establish a common economic space and a real customs union. I would like to note that three countries - Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan - are now involved in this activity. We are making more progress with our Belarusian colleagues than with our Kazakh partners, but nevertheless, we have no contradictions in either direction; it is only a matter of time. I think everything will be synchronised in this respect.
In addition, today we adopted the forecast balances of supply and demand for the key products of the Union State and the balances of fuel and energy resources for 2009. I hope you understand how important this issue is under the present circumstances to ensure the stable performance of industrial enterprises.
We also analysed other relevant issues in bilateral relations.
On the whole I would like to once again express satisfaction with the outcome of today's meeting. I would like to thank Mr Sidorsky and all our Belarusian colleagues for today's constructive and fruitful work.
Thank you very much. I hope that our further cooperation during this year will also be very constructive.
Sergei Sidorsky: Thank you, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. We recently agreed with Mr Putin to come together for a meeting of the Union Government today, on January 30.
The major task that we commissioned to our experts, ministries, and agencies was submitting a coordinated plan of Russia and Belarus' joint efforts to overcome the financial and economic global crisis. We agreed to review a joint action programme prepared by our experts.
We would like to state that they have drafted a very good document, which we will sign. We decided to sign it now. The document contains a number of provisions that will help us meet the challenges that might arise during the current financial crisis, which originated elsewhere.
We need to work out a series of measures to save our market. These measures should not be targeted only at maintaining the current trade turnover volume. I should say that our mutual trade reached a record level of over $34 billion, which is 40% higher than last year. It is quite an achievement, one that probably no other former Soviet republic can boast.
The main commitment we would like to confirm is that we will ensure equal access for businesses to Russian and Belarusian home markets this year and in subsequent years. It is very important; many people were concerned about this issue. We arrived at a decision that the banking systems of Russian and Belarus will fully handle all financial issues related to production and equipment supplies from our states to our mutual markets.
We agreed that cooperation supplies that existed in Russia and Belarus will be preserved, and we will give them a new impetus. We gave an instruction to the Shuvalov-Kobyakov group (these are our deputies in charge of the economic block) to work out cooperation supply issues within two or three days; and, what is more, we made a decision on expanding leasing supplies. Corresponding measures shall be adopted in that area as well. Thus, the whole range of matters business managers were concerned about is stipulated in the document, giving us an opportunity to preserve the current trade turnover between Russia and Belarus.
The common external border action plan is another key document. It was prepared due to the well-synchronised performance of the two countries' Transport Ministries, Customs Committees, and Agricultural Ministries. We are determined to establish a common external border of Russia and Belarus by January 1, 2010, and exercise common border, customs, and phyto-sanitary control. A corresponding joint action plan was submitted, and we approved it at today's meeting of the Council of Ministers.
In addition, we reviewed the balances of supply and demand. Russian goods will be supplied to Belarus and vice versa based on the balances of supply and demand. In accordance with the decisions made at the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State we drafted and considered the agenda of the Supreme State Council and will be ready to convene for a Supreme State Council meeting on February 3.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to add that we agreed to accelerate transferring $1 billion, the second tranche of the loan Russia is giving Belarus.
In fact, we devoted much attention to currency and monetary issues. For example, just for your information, I can say that 55-60% of the trade turnover between Russia and Belarus is made in Russian roubles. Approximately 90% of Belarusian exports to Russia are made in roubles, and about 45% of Russian exports to Belarus are also made in roubles. Therefore, today we also spoke about our joint steps to establish a single currency and to expand the use of roubles in mutual accounts, as well as to give the Russian rouble the status of a regional currency, which is a goal Russia has declared.
Russian and Belarusian heads of Central Banks and Finance Ministers discussed it in detail today.