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Meeting with representatives of Russian and Spanish businesses

June 18, 2011, St Petersburg

Dmitry Medvedev and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met with Russian and Spanish business people. They discussed the prospects of bilateral cooperation in various economic sectors.

Following the meeting, a number of documents on cooperation in transport, energy and investment were signed. In particular, a contract on design and supply of passenger train components, the Agreement on Development, Production, Operation, Maintenance and Testing of New Generation Railway Rolling Stock and Infrastructure, the Memorandum on Cooperation in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production, and the Agreement on State Support of Investment Activity in Leningrad Region were signed.

* * *

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

First of all I would like to say that I am very glad to see you in St Petersburg at our forum. We are very pleased that representatives of Spanish and Russian business circles are here.

We communicate quite regularly, and relatively recently we met in St Petersburg during the opening ceremony of the Year of Russia in Spain and Year of Spain in Russia. We had a good conversation then, and I hope that today we will do so again.

Such meetings are very useful; they allow us to analyse the current state of affairs, the current situation and prospects of our bilateral economic relations. The Prime Minister and I were just discussing this and we decided that on the whole the situation is not bad: last year trade turnover increased by quite a lot to more than $7 billion, that is 40 percent more than 2009. But at the same time, it certainly still has not yet reached pre-crisis levels, so we need to expend efforts to bring it to about $10 billion. I think that we can fill this gap, which was created by the crisis.

Clearly, our mutual investments are also growing but, to speak frankly, Mr Prime Minister and I do not believe that they correspond to neither current needs nor the capacity of our respective economies. We expect that the activities of various entrepreneurs, including those in this hall, will affect the quality and intensity of our bilateral ties, and that the relevant mutually beneficial agreements will be signed here at the St Petersburg Forum. I hope that these too will contribute to the development of investment cooperation.

We know that Spanish business is interested in expanding cooperation in the oil and gas sector, in energy relations, in infrastructure projects in transport, shipbuilding and light industry, and in tourism. And for our part we naturally have a number of new areas to suggest. In any case, we will try and diversify our economic ties, especially in light of the agreements that we have in the context of the Partnership for Modernisation initiative. And in this respect our business communities will play a key role.

It is also very nice that such active exchanges are taking place during the reciprocal national years in Russia and Spain. I believe that business relationships are no less valuable than diverse cultural and educational ties, cultural ties that have existed throughout our countries' relations.

Once again, welcome to all and I will now give the floor to my colleague, Mr Prime Minister.

Prime Minister of Spain Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (re-translated): Thank you, Mr President, for your remarks.

As you know, 2011 is a special year for Spanish and Russian cultural relations, and this will allow us to give an important stimulus to official, economic and cultural relations. I would like to thank President Medvedev for his interest and for the personal responsibilities he assumed in connection with this celebratory year, one which plays such an important role in relations between our two countries.

Russia is a major, crucial economic player in the international arena. In the decade prior to the crisis, its economy grew at an average of seven percent per year, and this was higher than the international average of four percent. During this time Russia rose twelve places in global rankings and its economy ranked eleventh in the world. This was also the cause of improvements to the well-being of Russian citizens: during this time fifteen million of them rose out of poverty.

In 2010, Russia's economy grew at four percent and thus re-joined normal levels of growth. Also in 2010, Spain began to recover from the crisis. This process is quite slow, and the circumstances and situation are quite complicated. In particular, it is caused by problems related to public debt faced by countries in the euro zone.

Spain has undertaken structural reforms in order to correct macroeconomic imbalances, imbalances that accumulated during the previous growth cycle. In addition, we are now planning fiscal adjustments to reduce the current deficit in the external sector. It is there that we are witnessing our economic recovery: in 2010 Spanish exports grew by 14 percent, close to pre-crisis levels, and now traditional markets are also growing rapidly.

Compared with traditional markets, this sector is growing quite rapidly, just like in Russia. In Russia, this balance has grown by 35 percent. For this reason this market is a priority for us, and we view it as a target market within our integrated development plan. And as part of that plan, we expect to reduce our trade deficit which, mainly due to energy imports, surpassed 4 billion euros.

Our bilateral economic relations grew particularly well in 2005. However, despite this growth, economic relations between Spain and Russia do not correspond to the important role both countries play in the global economy, their economic weight, and their extreme openness to international markets (in both countries imports and exports amount to more than fifty percent of GDP). And because of this, there is a big potential for growth, and we still have a long way to go. Today we will take new steps in this direction in order to further strengthen our economic relations.

I am accompanied by a very dynamic team of Spanish entrepreneurs. I am referring to the representatives of leading global companies. Talking about the sectors represented here, they include key competitive ones such as energy, engineering, construction, environment, transport, infrastructure, heavy industry and car manufacturing.

Many of these firms are already present in the Russian Federation and participate in various projects. And at this meeting we will sign an agreement worth 800 million euros, which will supplement the agreements and investments already being implemented, which total around one billion euros.

I am referring to two agreements in energy and railway transport and an agreement on promoting investments in automotive industry components. We will also sign an agreement on cooperation between our countries' industry ministries, which will allow us to implement more effectively the thirty or so projects in which our companies cooperate.

I would like to introduce you to my team, a team of business people working in five specific industries in which we are both interested, namely energy, services, transport, infrastructure and industry.

Allow me, Mr President, to introduce Antonio Brufau, chairman of Repsol, who is representing the energy sector. This is a strategically important sector, one which is especially important for us since your country is the main energy supplier to the European Union.

By combining Russia's potential and Spain's skills not only in conventional energy but also in renewables, where we hold leading positions, particularly in solar and wind, we will create vast potential for cooperation between our businesses.


June 18, 2011, St Petersburg