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Opening remarks at meeting of Presidential Commission for Modernisation and Technological Development of Russia’s Economy

June 19, 2010, St Petersburg

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: I just saw all sorts of miracles. There are some interesting things here that tell us that the idea of modernisation, which we discuss so much and the need for which the experts have been telling us about for a long time, has good chances for success, judging from the fascinating exhibition I just saw. The Commission’s meeting today will focus on foreign economic policy. This is the first time we will discuss the role of foreign economic policy in the country’s modernisation. It is absolutely logical to do it here, at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, where we have a good opportunity to discuss the state of global economy, as well as to analyse whether our foreign economic policy matches the challenges and requirements of our time. Let me remind you that I raised this issue in my last Address to the Federal Assembly. I issued instructions to the Government to develop relevant proposals. The deadline is past and I would like to find out what has been done. In mid-November last year the Government received instructions to analyse the criteria for evaluating the results of foreign economic policy and Russia’s foreign policy in terms of their relevance to addressing current economic modernisation challenges.

The members of the recently established Council of the Skolkovo Innovation Centre have joined us today. I find it of special value to us that the Council includes CEOs of major high-tech companies from America, Europe and Asia. I sincerely thank them for joining us. We treasure your authority, experience and your vision of our progress along the modernisation path.

I should also note that the Skolkovo Innovation Centre's board of trustees has been established and I am going to chair it. I hope this decision will help us reach the project’s goals as quickly as possible.

Clearly, the five national priorities we have set should be reflected in our foreign economic policy and our ties with our key foreign partners.

The recent EU-Russia summit launched the Partnership for Modernisation initiative, whose aim is to promote cooperation in the high technology sector. This is an excellent example of blending our modernisation goals with our foreign economic policy.

We are actively cooperating with Germany and France, and have signed a relevant memorandum with Denmark. I hope that my upcoming visit to the United States will also be a step towards this goal. We are going to develop partnership with the United States.

”We must set up high-tech production to become more competitive, primarily through our intellectual resources.“

We are facing a dual challenge: to create a favourable investment climate and address priority issues in the high technology sector, working in a targeted and result-oriented way. We must finalise the list of countries that will be our key technological partners. We need to coordinate our actions in attracting investments necessary for setting up R&D centres of leading global companies and promoting Russian products and services in the world markets. It is extremely important for us that our foreign partners and universities begin to work more actively in Russia.

We must set up high-tech production to become more competitive, primarily through our intellectual resources.

Yesterday I discussed this with representatives of the largest international companies, who are here especially to talk about technological modernisation. Later I had a meeting with representatives of American companies, who came to talk to me in the run-up to my visit to the United States. We had an interesting discussion and I hope we will continue it today.

We must also prepare proposals on creating a competitive system of financing sponsors of exported Russian technologies, on increasing the volume of soft government loans to Russian exporters of innovative products, including but not limited to those who are working on the construction of nuclear power stations abroad, energy-saving technologies and energy efficiency, and on establishing an export loans and investments insurance system.

The customs and tariffs policy deserves a special mention. It is one of our main tools for balancing our foreign economic activity. The situation in this area is complex, and I can say so openly in the presence of our foreign partners. We see a great deal of excessive regulation, bureaucracy, countless normative acts, permits, licenses, registration certificates and technical requirements. It is clear that such a huge amount of regulation generates corruption. An inefficient customs administration system is simply incapable of supporting and promoting the export of innovations. I would like to hear a report today on progress made on drafting the law on customs regulations.

Apart from optimising customs procedures, we need to think about the requirements of currency and export control for the export of end products and spare parts.

What else can we add to our list of priorities? People. We need to do everything in our power to make sure that our young people want to stay in the country where they were educated. Most people do not leave just because of financial considerations; at least in recent years I have heard people who moved abroad say: “The pay in Russia is absolutely acceptable; it is comparable with salaries in Europe and the United States, and the prospects are quite good as well. The problem is that the conditions for research are very poor because they pay our salaries but save money on lab equipment, special materials, mechanisms, computers and other things that are essential for conducting experiments and for creative output. All these things take months to get, sometimes even years, whereas in other countries all you have to do is fill in an order form on your computer and in two or three days you take delivery.” That is where the problem lies at present.

In addition, we need to put into practice our old strategy to bring in intellectual resources from abroad. Russian universities and companies must invite scientists and engineers from other countries to do research here. This is not a new idea; Russian government has employed this tactic many times in its history. But the number and the quality of professionals we attract must become the benchmark for their efficiency and conformity with present-day requirements. The future of our country and its competitiveness on the international arena depend to a great extent on the results of our cooperation with foreign companies and universities.

That is all would like to say for now. I propose we hear the main speakers now.

June 19, 2010, St Petersburg