Meeting with French business community representatives

MIL OSI – Source: President of Russia – The Kremlin – English –

Headline: Meeting with French business community representatives

President of Russia
Vladimir Putin
: Colleagues,
friends,

Let me welcome you all to Moscow. It is a great
pleasure to meet the members of the Economic Council of the Franco-Russian
Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

France is without a doubt one of our
longstanding and reliable partners and we are very pleased to see you here.

Let me start this meeting by noting that
despite the various difficulties we face, problems of an economic nature and also politically motivated issues, none of the more than 500 French companies
working on our market have left Russia. Everyone is still here and continues to work, and we are very happy to see this.

But unfortunately, the factors I just mentioned
have led to a drop in our bilateral trade of more than 30 percent – 36 percent
to be exact. But there are also some positive moments, and I will say more
about this now.

We are reviving our cooperation mechanisms.
After a long hiatus, our inter-agency council on economic cooperation has
resumed its work, and the Intergovernmental Commission, which is headed by our
two countries’ prime ministers, has agreed to hold its next meeting before the end of the year.

These purely administrative developments are
good to see, but what really pleases us is that despite the current
difficulties, we saw an increase in reciprocal investment last year. French
investment in the Russian economy grew at a very fast pace with French
companies investing more than one billion euros.

This is partly motivated by a desire to preserve positions on our market, including in the agriculture sector, where
several million has been invested in cheese production in the Russian
Federation. We most certainly welcome this and will do everything we can to put
in place the conditions needed for further investment, reciprocal investment
too, because over this same time, Russian businesspeople have increased their
investment in the French economy.

As you know, we will soon be hosting the next
[St Petersburg] International Economic Forum. We will be happy to see you all
at this event, at which we will discuss in detail how to develop relations with
our partners.

Of course, we will also continue active efforts
to create a good environment for doing business in Russia, for Russian
businesspeople and for our foreign partners and friends. I was discussing this
very matter just before with members of the Russian Government, the business
community, State Duma deputies, and regional heads. We are drawing up our future
plans for developing these favourable conditions.

Our efforts in this area have already brought
some positive changes of late. We have moved from 120th place to 51st
place on the World Bank’s well-known Ease of Doing Business Index. True, we are
not in first place, but it is nonetheless a big jump up and the progress is
clear.

We have maintained Russia’s economic stability
and I have no doubt that we can continue to do this. We also succeeded in stabilising state finances after the Central Bank introduced a floating
exchange rate for the ruble.

We follow a very balanced budget policy,
putting our primary focus on macroeconomic stability. We have succeeded in these efforts overall.

We have a good trade balance. Last year, we
worked with a surplus of $168 billion, and we already have a surplus of $16
billion for the first quarter of this year. In other words, this trend has
continued.

Let me note too that, as is known, we had some
problems with a contraction of our gross domestic product, and this contraction
continued over the first quarter of this year too, but it was twice less than
over the same period in 2015.

In other words, there is a stable trend towards
an improvement in our macroeconomic indicators, including GDP. Our task now is
to maintain this over the coming period. At the same time, we have one of the lowest levels of state debt – it is around 10–12 percent, and our gold and foreign currency reserves are growing and as of May 1 this year came to $391.5
billion. Our goal is not to stuff the state coffers full though, but, as I said, to create good conditions for working on the Russian market.

I am happy to see you and it is with pleasure
that I will listen to your views on what more we should do to ensure that you
have a comfortable environment on the Russian market.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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