Plenary session of the Eurasian Economic Forum
Vladimir Putin took part in the plenary session of the Eurasian Economic Forum.
May 24, 2023
Plenary session of the Eurasian Economic Forum. Photo: Grigoriy Sisoev, RIA Novosti
Other notable attendees included President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia Mher Grigoryan, and Chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission Board Mikhail Myasnikovich. President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping sent a video address to plenary session participants and guests. The plenary discussion was moderated by Alexander Shokhin, President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.
* * *
President Vladimir Putin’s remarks at the plenary session of the Eurasian Economic Forum
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Shokhin, friends, ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to welcome you all. I will try to answer the questions posed by our moderator. I would like to note that the forum we are attending today will now be convened regularly; my colleagues and I agreed on this in Bishkek in December last year.
The wide scope of participants present here today – officials, business leaders, experts, representatives of public organisations from the EAEU and from other countries – shows that the role of our association is increasing, growing, and this speaks of the rapidly changing world that Mr Shokhin mentioned, the successful development of Eurasian integration and the growing interest that our organisation creates abroad.
I think the theme of the forum – Eurasian Integration in a Multipolar World – is highly relevant. It spans the most important issues the Eurasian Union is addressing today when it comes to creating favourable conditions for the EAEU economies and the development of cooperation throughout Eurasia.
We can see truly deep and fundamental changes taking place on the global stage. More and more states are taking a course towards strengthening national sovereignty, pursuing an independent domestic and foreign policy, and adhering to their own development model. All of them are in favour of building a new, more equitable architecture of international economic relations, striving to constructively influence world processes, expand the network of partnerships based on mutual benefit, respect and consideration of each other’s interests.
It sounds a little trivial, or like a cliché, but it is actually happening, in practice, in reality, in real life.
It is important that the majority of participants in international communication agree with these approaches – I would like to emphasise this. And these are not empty words; they really do agree with this approach. We actively cooperate with major international associations, such as BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, as well as multilateral organisations in Latin America and Africa.
And our country, the Russian Federation, which is hosting this forum today, certainly shares this approach, and all our partners in the Eurasian Economic Union also do. We are genuinely interested in honest, productive and pragmatic interaction.
Everyone – and I want to emphasise this, directly answering our moderator’s question – everyone who acts, thinks and does otherwise is damaging the global economy, in fact, shooting themselves in the foot, and the foot of those who are still forced to obey their dictates.
And, by the way, in this sense, they are only strengthening the downward trend of their own development, and this is something that international experts, including experts from the United States, have been bluntly writing. Their economic policy is, if anything, slowing their own growth. Like I said, they are just shooting themselves in the foot.
But this is their choice; we are ready to cooperate with anyone who wants to work with us on the principles I mentioned, at any second, at any time.
As it is, cooperation based on these principles is fully beneficial to the EAEU members – now I want to return to our association – the figures speak for themselves.
By the way, the figures also speak about the downward trend in the development of the still powerful global economic centres. These figures are provided by international organisations, which, by the way, are under their control. They are objectively revealing these trends in the world. Also, the figures show the trends in the economies where countries stick to other principles in relations.
So, the figures speak for themselves: despite significant manifestations of crisis in the global economy and trade, considerable geopolitical risks and uncertainties, the total GDP of the Eurasian Union member states in 2022 decreased by only 1.6 percent. When some experts “across the pond,” as they say, had predicted a very different scenario, a landslide recession. Nothing of the kind has happened or is happening now – and clearly will not happen at all. Let me remind you that our analysts, and international analysts as well, are already predicting GDP growth in Russia. At first, they talked about 0.7 percent. Let me remind you that the experts expect a decline in the leading EU economies this year. As for Russia, earlier forecasts said plus 0.7, now they are saying plus 1.5, and maybe even closer to 2 percent. And that says a lot.
In general, trade in the EAEU is growing at a fairly steady pace, which is also an important indicator of the effectiveness of our joint work. In 2022, trade grew by 14 percent, to $83.3 billion.
It is no secret that our Western opponents are trying to compel many of our partners to curtail beneficial cooperation with Russia through persuasion and with various promises and blackmail. In the process, they do not care one bit about the losses to be sustained by these states and their peoples.
I would like to note in this context that Russia has always taken a responsible and genuine approach to interaction with all countries. We fulfil in full – I would like to emphasise this – in full and on time – the agreements signed in the Eurasian Economic Union. We fully carry out all of our agreements.
I do not want to return now to what our opponents were talking a lot about. I am referring to the energy crisis in Europe, but I would like to ask once again – who is to blame for this? Yes, there was a crisis, but now, fortunately, energy prices are becoming economically substantiated. But who is to blame for what happened? The Nord Stream pipelines were blown up. Nord Stream-2 was not launched. Poland closed the Yamal-Europe gas route via its territory. Did we do this? No, they did. There were two main gas pipelines through Ukraine. Ukraine closed one of them. We didn’t. Incidentally, we are supplying Europe with gas via the second line while Ukraine is safely cashing the money for transit despite calling us the aggressor. We fulfil all of our commitments. I would like to emphasise this. And, of course, we are doing and will be doing this primarily as regards the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union.
I would like to make a special mention about the transport-and-logistics situation. Obviously, today there is a higher need to build new and sustainable logistics chains and develop international corridors at an expedited pace. We believe this work is very important for both the EAEU and beyond it, including the North-South corridor.
In the past few days, we signed an agreement on laying the Resht-Astara railway with our Iranian colleagues. This will make it possible to link Russian ports in the Baltic with Iranian ports on the coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Construction of the new line will get underway this year.
We are closely cooperating with Azerbaijan in the context of this corridor. We hope for early drafting and signing of the relevant trilateral documents with Azerbaijan’s participation, notably, the agreement on cooperation to develop railway infrastructure and freight shipments on the North-South Corridor.
Full operation of this route will allow us to ensure annual shipment volumes of up to 30 million tonnes of cargo. This railway will be in a position to compete for freight traffic with traditional trade routes. It will facilitate new regional transport hubs and production centres throughout Eurasia, allowing us to create tens of thousands of jobs and open up more opportunities for the development of all EAEU member-countries.
Sweeping changes are underway in international finance as well. I am pleased to note that Russia has managed to not only adapt to the circumstances, but to become a leader in these processes as well. We are pursuing a policy of reducing the share of unfriendly countries’ currencies in mutual transactions and planning to expand our activities with our partners around the world, including the EAEU, in order to complete the transition to national currencies.
Many fast-developing economies, including China, India, and the Latin American countries, are switching to national currencies in their foreign trade settlements. It is important to coordinate our efforts to create a new and decentralised global financial system. Of course, the stability of global finance will largely depend on how this decentralisation goes. The more decentralised the system, the better it will be for the global economy, since it will be less dependent on crises in the countries that still enjoy an advantage in the form of world reserve currencies. This will boost the security of not only transaction settlements, but the entire global economy as well, and will remove politics from the economic sphere.
Importantly, in our activities within the EAEU, we invariably support the initiatives coming from investors and business people in general. To give you an example, I will cite the launch – Mr Shokhin mentioned this earlier – of the Eurasian Reinsurance Company, which will make it possible to boost investment in EAEU markets and in other countries. We welcome the efforts to create a Eurasian consortium of national development institutions, which will become a platform for sharing experiences and best practices, provide support to entrepreneurs from our countries, and allow us to develop common approaches to promoting promising cooperation projects.
We believe one of the union’s priorities is to ensure technological sovereignty. Our countries boast of sufficient scientific, human resource and industrial potential to produce high-quality high-tech products that can compete in global markets. We fully realise that this is probably one of the most important aspects today, because ensuring technological independence, in fact, lies at the heart of economic, and, therefore, political independence.
As integration deepens, mutual interest in training highly skilled specialists and personnel grows as well. The convergence of academic and education programmes within the EAEU has taken on a new sense of importance. We are talking about the unification of education standards and the development of independent Eurasian knowledge-intensive systems and libraries that can be accessed by researchers from all our countries.
Our association is also supportive of other initiatives that are designed to promote growth throughout Eurasia. In particular, we continue to work with the People’s Republic of China to align the integration processes, which are unfolding within the EAEU, and the Belt and Road Initiative advanced by our Chinese friends. This is our way of consistently implementing the ambitious idea of building a major Eurasian partnership.
The Eurasian Union is also working hard to expand friendly ties with other countries in the near abroad, Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, which represent the absolute majority of the world’s population and drive global growth. Today, these global economic growth drivers represent key investment attraction points and new transport route hubs.
Over the past year, talks were held to create free trade zones with Iran and Egypt; similar consultations have been held with the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia. A substantive dialogue is underway as part of the efforts to implement international agreements with China, Vietnam, Serbia and other trading partners. The dialogue mechanisms operated by the Eurasian Economic Commission have expanded as well.
Tomorrow, we will join efforts with the leaders of the five states present here to hold a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, adopt resolutions on the further deepening of integration, focus on ensuring energy and food security and technological and financial independence, accelerating the digital transformation, eliminating regulatory and trade barriers, and developing transport infrastructure, something I mentioned earlier.
I would like to underscore once again that we highly appreciate the engagement of our EAEU partners in aligning cooperation. I am positive that our integration experience can be used to promote existing and create new interaction formats throughout Eurasia and the world at large.
I would like to close by wishing Eurasian Economic Forum participants every success in their work and productive communication. I am confident that, as I said earlier, the starting ground that we create today for regular contacts of this nature and level will bring us success.
Thank you very much.
To be continued.