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Official website of the President of Russia

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Russian-Norwegian business conference

April 26, 2010, Oslo

Dmitry Medvedev participated in Russian-Norwegian business conference.

In his speech, President Medvedev stressed that the two nations’ business communities need to encourage investment cooperation in different sectors and in various regions of Russia. Mr Medvedev placed special emphasis on venture and innovative investment, particularly in energy saving and energy efficiency, a priority sector in developing Russia’s economy, as well as in the area of renewable energy sources.

Dmitry Medvedev invited Norwegian companies to participate in the creation of an innovation centre in Skolkovo.

* * *

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

I would like to welcome those gathered here today for this distinguished Russian and Norwegian business forum. In effect this is the first forum of its kind, and I’m very glad to be here and have this chance to speak to you.

Tomorrow Mr Prime Minister Stoltenberg and I will be discussing our business relations and cultural ties in detail. But it is very important that what we talk about today provide a solid foundation for the discussions to be held tomorrow, that those discussions be based on the recommendations, suggestions, and perhaps the issues discussed here, because there is no cooperation without problems. We are very well aware of that.

Government's task is to minimise these problems for business. I speak from experience here, because I have not worked all my life in government. There was a time when I was on the other side of the barricades, when I found myself in your part of the room.

I would like to thank our distinguished organisers for their excellent preparations leading up to this event, thank you for having carefully studied the materials on Russia, and for quoting one of my own works — I am referring to the article Go Russia! This really is one of the directions or even perhaps the main focus of our work in the short term. It seems to me that if Russia is to develop according to this scenario, then our business ties and our cooperation have a great future ahead of them.

Norway is one of our long-standing foreign economic partners. Over the years trade between us has increased. I think you talked about this: since 2004 it has multiplied by a factor of almost 2.5. In 2008 it reached almost $2.5 billion. Unfortunately, as everyone knows last year there was a significant drop off, but this is not a dramatic change but rather a consequence of the crisis. There’s another encouraging figure: I don’t know if it’s been mentioned but I’d like to remind you of it, even if someone else has already cited it. In January and February of this year trade grew by 50 percent over the same period last year. This means that our economy is recovering from the crisis; this means that the problems that have arisen in the past year will, I hope, be overcome.

However, I’d like to point out another figure. Norway’s share of the whole is very small, 0.4 percent of Russia’s total foreign trade, and that certainly does not do justice to our countries’ economic potential, all the more so because the figure for total trade between Russia and Europe is I think somewhere around 250 billion euros annually.

We need to think about where to go from here. It is important to develop investment cooperation. Currently the accumulated Norwegian investment in Russia is about $2 billion. This is a decent amount; nevertheless, I think it's just the beginning. Our partners have shown great interest not only in oil and gas, which is a traditional sphere for investment in the Russian Federation and Norway, but also in the construction of new industrial facilities, shopping malls, the banking sector, and the fields of communications and telecommunications.

Let me draw your attention to the fact that in 2009 the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global owned shares in 64 Russian companies worth a total of $3.5 billion. I think that prospects are good for openings in areas such as the production of non-ferrous metals, shipbuilding and printing.

Currently Norwegian capital is active in various parts of Russia, but of course most of our joint projects and Norwegian investment is concentrated in the north of our country, in St Petersburg, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions. Two of the governors from these regions are with us here today. However, I hope that despite the fact that the Russian Federation and Norway are northern countries, the geography of our cooperation will become more extensive and comprehensive.

There is one topic that strikes me as extremely important and that is venture capital investment. We really have begun to modernise. So I hope that venture capital funds will start to develop more actively as well. As I recall, in 2009 venture capital funds in Russia managed some $14 billion in total assets. The number of such funds is in excess of 150, while almost half of the above amount is generated by foreign investors. In my view this is still a mere pittance. Our challenge is to radically change this situation. We are strategic partners who have enjoyed extensive and important relations. Of course there is our partnership in the energy field. In this area the prospects are more or less clear. I have great hopes for the future, although a lot has already been accomplished. I am glad to see the Norwegian energy group Statoil Hydro among our partners in the Shtokman field. I hope that we will cooperate on a number of other major projects, including joint work on the Prirazlomnoye oilfield in the Pechora Sea and other projects.

These subjects are familiar to me because for quite a while, for eight years, I chaired the Board of Directors at Gazprom. For the sake of Russian-Norwegian relations I hope that those eight years were not wasted. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, who is currently Chairman of the Board at Gazprom, is with us today. So in that regard, I am sure our cooperation will develop.

Well, I’d like to come back to the issue of creating investment links. It’s very important for us to invest in innovation. Russia is not only oil and gas, not only diamonds and gold; Russia has significant intellectual resources too, and we would like to develop in this area by taking advantage of the opportunities in Norway and the things that you have been able to achieve. There are some very important subjects here such as energy efficiency, energy saving and renewable energy. Not so long ago, I formulated five priorities for the technological modernisation of our country, and energy efficiency and energy saving were among them as key priorities for our economy. With these and related objectives in mind, we are building a new innovation centre in Skolkovo near Moscow. Right now we are only at the beginning of creating this innovation cluster. I do not know if we will have the opportunity to create something like Silicon Valley or its European counterparts, but in any event we will be building a large-scale, major centre of this kind. We will be putting some muscle into this by investing serious amounts of Russian money. Of course Norwegian companies are invited to participate in this as well.

I sincerely wish you success in your cooperation with the Russian Federation. Russia has a rapidly developing economy: this offers great advantages but it creates certain problems as well. Yet we all know that there can be no successful investment without risk. For business it is essential to be able to position itself where there is the chance for very rapid development. And today's Russia can be considered one of these fast-growing, vibrant economies.

I hope that you and I will have many more good reasons to meet and discuss our business cooperation.

I wish your conference every success and I hope that we can finally overcome the effects of the global financial crisis. We will be taking up these matters again at the G20 and in other formats. I am sure that everything will work out.

Thank you.

April 26, 2010, Oslo