Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for accepting our invitation to take part in the regular meeting of the Business Council, which we have agreed to devote to the prospects of Russia’s cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean countries, including in investment and technology.
We have consistent and long-term interest in this region. We stand for a strong, politically united and economically stable Latin America, which is currently asserting itself as one of the pillars of the developing polycentric world order. We are pleased to note that the region’s countries are upholding their lawful place in world affairs on the basis of equality, balance of interests and mutual respect. We wholeheartedly support this course.
Russia does not see the region through the prism of geopolitical confrontation. Neither we, nor our Latin American partners, are interested in this. Consolidation of mutually beneficial relations with the region’s countries in all areas is, in itself, important for us.
I’d like to make a few points before today’s discussion. There is practically no doubt that the trend towards the growing influence and weight of Latin America in the global economy and politics will continue. It's clear that its dynamic development will be accompanied by the movement of the majority of countries towards centrism and a pragmatic approach, without the dominance of some single ideology or an orientation towards “selected” allies in foreign policy affairs.
The region’s conflict potential is decreasing. There are no serious conflicts between the region’s states. On the contrary, they show interest in joint efforts to consolidate their common Latin American home as part of regional integration (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States – CELAC) and sub-regional integration. In the latter case the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Pacific Alliance and the Central American Integration System (SICA) seem to have the best prospects. Latin American counties are searching for ways of using regional integration mechanisms to encourage socio-economic development, in particular, by intensifying relations with partners outside the region.
In the last few years Russia has successfully invigorated political dialogue with its Latin American partners. Our approaches to key international issues largely coincide. We are in solidarity with them when it comes to ensuring strict observance of international law and the resolution of any problems on a multilateral basis at the negotiating table with respect for the sovereignty of all states and without interference in their domestic affairs, without pressure or dictate.
Latin American countries are sincerely interested in expanding and diversifying relations with Russia both in bilateral and multilateral formats. I became convinced of this once again during my March tour of the region. Russia’s relations with many countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador, have reached or are about to reach the level of strategic partnership. We are closely cooperating with Brazil in BRICS, which is asserting itself as an influential player in the system of global governance. As you know we will host a BRICS summit in Ufa in July. The mechanism of Russia-CELAC political dialogue and cooperation is steadily growing stronger. Our relations with SICA are making progress as well. In March, we applied for the status of extra-regional observer in it.
In the last few years our trade with the region’s countries has remained steady at the level of about 16-18 billion dollars, but the range of goods is still fairly traditional, with raw materials and agricultural products playing the main role in our trade. It seems we should take specific steps to overcome this situation in our trade and economic relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries. I believe we should primarily orient ourselves towards long-term projects in those areas where Russia’s positions are traditionally strong, and proceed based on economic benefits for all participants.
We should make the most of the complementary nature of our economies and construct integrated high-tech project and production chains. I’m referring to the most in-demand branches, such as the energy industry (in the broadest range possible: oil and gas, hydro and nuclear power branches), machine-building, first and foremost aircraft and helicopter construction, infrastructure facilities and transport. There are interesting recent developments in the bio-pharmaceutical industry and information technology. We have set some examples of successful cooperation, in the form of technological alliances with Argentina and Brazil, civilian nuclear projects with Argentina and various energy projects in Venezuela and Ecuador.
Of course, nothing will replace direct contacts between our business communities. Good opportunities for this are offered by Russia’s large discussion platforms, such as the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. This year it will have a Latin American section. I think many of those present will take active part in its work.
Intergovernmental commissions and high-level commissions are tried and tested mechanisms of cooperation. I believe it is important to more actively use the potential of business councils, chambers of commerce and industry and the National Committee for the Promotion of Economic Cooperation with Latin American Countries. It would be interesting to hear the opinion of representatives of these agencies that are present here today. We also hope to receive more first-hand information on the initiative of creating a permanent Russian-Latin American forum. I know that you are actively promoting it.
Interregional cooperation should remain in the focus of attention. It has a decent legal foundation and there are concrete examples of mutually advantageous projects with the participation of Russian and Latin American regions.
Contacts between regional integration mechanisms and the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) play an important role in our cooperation. We are continuing to accommodate the draft memorandum on trade and economic cooperation between the EAEC and MERCOSUR.
I hope that today’s discussion will allow us to elaborate new proposals and initiatives that will facilitate further development of trade and economic relations between Russia on the one hand, and Latin American and Caribbean countries on the other. I am looking forward to a lively and meaningful discussion.