President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, I really am very pleased to meet with you in Bern. This is due to the fact that we all highly value Switzerland as our reliable and close economic partner, as well as acknowledge the considerable prestige of the Swiss Confederation in economic and international issues. And of course today we did not waste time: Mr President just talked about what we did and made a short excursion into history, mentioning a Swiss citizen who is very well-known in our country, Mr Franz Lefort.
I would say that in addition to the fact that he was quite a remarkable person, Mr Lefort is also associated with a number of geographical place names. In Moscow a whole district is named after him as are some other notable places there; this is, so to speak, part of our history and each person has his or her own allusions. Russian citizens understand me, and later on Russian businessmen will explain to their Swiss colleagues what I am hinting at.
We absolutely did discuss both conceptual and global issues, as well as more specific questions, including those related to overcoming the effects of the international financial crisis. We expressed our shared conviction that trusting, full-fledged relations between countries are essential, because most analysts describing the current crisis agree that it is primarily a crisis of confidence, and this loss of confidence has the most unpleasant consequences.
Now we must compensate for this lack. We all require a predictable, modern financial and monetary system and, on the other hand, equitable relations between countries with different levels of development. In other words, we all must act according to commonly agreed rules, but new ones, not rules that were established sixty or seventy years ago. Along with this, we must not forget our traditions or the fundamental principles which characterise countries with market economies.
It is unlikely that attempts to interrupt, for example, the normal flow of economic life with all-pervasive state regulation – even if it is necessary to overcome the consequences of the financial crisis – will lead to success, or yield more than partial success. We understand that once this phase, a phase of greater government intervention in the economy, has gone by, a more relaxed, normal operating regime for global financial markets and, of course, our national economies must occur.
We discussed this subject today both in general terms and in more practical ones, even at the news conference when we were asked important questions about the fate of banking secrecy in the world and naturally in Switzerland as well.
In Russia, this crisis is perceived as a very serious challenge, a challenge that requires us to actively work to modernise our domestic economy. We have our own big problems and therefore the question of how much we can change ourselves and how much we can change our economy will determine our future. So for us this is the main challenge, and we would like to see all of Russia's competitive advantages fully used in this regard.
We have every reason to believe that relations with the Swiss Confederation are one of our key priorities. Our country could become one of the largest markets for Swiss goods and, on the other hand, we share our Swiss partners’ desire to establish a free trade zone. I think that this idea may be fully implemented, even in light of the recently established Customs Union of Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan.
We agreed that we will act in parallel: on the one hand, we will form an alliance and on the other, we will establish a foundation in order to sign an agreement on a free trade zone — apparently we will arrive at the desired result when Russia enters the World Trade Organisation.
Now, about our investment affairs: in general things are going very well, and I am ready to use even higher, superior designations. A number of Swiss companies are firmly ensconced in our market. Of course, a very vivid example of this operation in Russia's market is the performance of Swiss investors. I am referring to the Nestle group, who now has 14 factories and 11,000 employees in Russia, and whose investment in the Russian economy is close to eight hundred million dollars.
Incidentally, what is particularly gratifying about Swiss business and what I would like to emphasize here is that it is operating not only in the capital, not only in Moscow and St Petersburg, but also in many other cities in our country. For us, this is especially important given that the level of development of our country and our regions is, as you well know, very uneven. Good investments in important sectors of our economy are extremely in demand in precisely those places where there is a persistent lack of investment.
In turn, our companies, including those present here, are interested in strengthening trade and economic ties with Switzerland. As I just mentioned, this concerns the process of modernising Russia's economy. We would like to develop cooperation in the high-tech sphere and are even expecting to see technological breakthrough in various areas. For this reason I was pleased to hear that our colleagues from the Swiss government said that precisely this field is one of the four priorities of our economic cooperation.
Moreover, Swiss companies are working in all the priority spheres that we have chosen for our country's development, including energy-saving technologies, the production of medical equipment, and information technology in the broadest sense of the word. Very important issues for us include cooperation in the field of biotechnology, nanotechnology and telecommunications. All these issues are, among other things, under my personal control.
We have something to offer as well, but on the other hand we must learn from our Swiss friends about creating effective mechanisms to support small and medium businesses. This is particularly apparent in times of crisis. I believe that cooperation in this field could be very, very useful.
There are major projects that stand out and that are very special for us. Among them I would mention the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, in which I think Swiss entrepreneurs could participate in the widest variety of ways.
Switzerland is among the leaders of those investing in our country, one of the top ten (with a cumulative investment of about four billion dollars), and I hope that this volume will continue to grow. Russian investment is also present in the Swiss market with a total of nearly three billion dollars. It seems to me that the joint development of these processes could be very, very helpful. And this is just based on expected strategic investments in the future, and more precisely in the industrial sectors of the economy.
The Russian-Swiss Business Council is operating and we have put forward a range of initiatives. Its membership includes 60 companies and I think that our colleagues will tell us more about this.
Today we took a number of important decisions about the future, including an agreement on simplifying the visa regime. I think that it will now be easier for businessmen to do their work, and easier for diplomats to communicate, so once again I want to say that today we did not waste any time.
We have a joint plan for economic cooperation and work through to 2010. Now we need to prepare a new plan of action for the following period. I think that this is crucially important.
These are some general comments that I wanted to make at the beginning of the conversation, but now I think we will have a talk about various issues that concern Swiss and Russian businessmen.