Question: "Could you please describe the agenda of the CIS Economic Council's session? What decisions do you expect?
Answer: The 35th regular Council session will take place on September 14. There are more than 20 issues on its agenda, some of which had been studied for several years before the CIS nations reached a compromise solution. The session will discuss draft international treaties, which will be reviewed subsequently by the Council of CIS Heads of Government and the Council of CIS Heads of State. These include a draft agreement regulating mutual access of CIS banks to the national currency markets and a draft convention on the legal status of migrant workers and members of their families. The Economic Council members are expected to sign an agreement on cooperation in establishing and exchanging information resources in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The forum is planning to consider the draft on allocations for the establishment and development of a united air defense system in 2008.
Q: What do you think about Russia's economic relations with other CIS nations?
A: Our economic cooperation has been developing fast. In 2002-2006, Russia's trade with other CIS countries went up by 150% to reach $64.6 billion. In 2006, it went up by a quarter compared to 2005. Generally speaking, these figures are not bad, although I would admit that trade could be developing faster than that. Russia is working to remove all barriers in trade with its partners. At the same time, we are trying to transfer trade in energy resources to market principles.
Investment cooperation is a major component of Russia's trade and economic relations with the CIS countries, and the Russian capital is playing a leading role here. In official estimates, the overall Russian investment in the CIS countries was $3.84 billion at the end of 2006. I think that stability in Russia's economic and political life is the main condition for keeping up and upgrading its investment cooperation with the CIS. Predictable conduct of businessmen and government officials is the earnest of trust in investment.
Q: What are the main problems in Russia's cooperation with other CIS nations?
A: All CIS nations are involved in and are seriously affected by globalization. Russia is taking part in a number of integration processes, moving in different directions and with different speed. Our partners are following the same model.
One of the reasons for the centrifugal trends in the CIS is the fact that the potentials of our partners fail to match the requirements of economic modernization, the growing investment and consumer demand for quality foods. We are still unable to redress the negative trend towards reducing the share of bilateral trade in the CIS overall trade.
Finally, migration in the CIS is not always conducive to integration. There is also a problem of illegal migration. But nonetheless I would like to emphasize that our economies have been closely intertwined for decades, if not centuries, and we are united by common history and culture. An opportunity of using Russian as a language of business communication is a major competitive advantage of the CIS countries. If properly used, all this heritage could become a powerful catalyst of our accelerated progress.
Q: Could you describe the main vector of Russian economic policy towards other CIS countries?
A: The goal of all integration projects in the CIS is to create a single economic space in different formats. In order to step up economic contacts within the CIS, it is essential to embark on large investment projects of mutual interest, continue improving the rules and regulations of cooperation, further liberalize trade and form elements of the common economic space.
We are also trying to develop an effective payments system and a reliable legal foundation, which would guarantee honest competition in our markets. Long-term, well-thought-out, pragmatic and transparent economic policy aimed at creating sound market environment around Russia is required not only by Russia but also its partners, primarily energy importers.
Q: Do you think that trade and close economic ties could become the main integrating factor in the post-Soviet space?
A: No doubt, mutually beneficial trade and investment are the main integrating factor in the post-Soviet space. That is why it is so important to complete the transfer of trade to market principles and to build economic relations along the lines of mutual advantage, openness and transparency. The prospects of cooperation will depend on what we will achieve in this context and on mutual understanding with our partners.
For example, I visited Chisinau recently at the invitation of my Moldovan counterpart Igor Dodon and saw once again that we can resolve any complicated issues at the negotiating table if we want to develop cooperation. I hope we will continue the dialogue on trade and investment at the forthcoming 6th International Investment Forum, which will take place in Sochi on September 20-23.
Q: What do you think about our cooperation with CIS countries in the near future?
A: Russia's trade and economic relations with CIS countries will continue developing in 2008-2010. In all probability, the Eurasian Economic Community will remain the center of CIS integration in 2008-2010.
Formation of a customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan with subsequent stage-by-stage admission of other CIS members will be of major importance in the multilateral format. Our ministry analysts believe that under the optimistic scenario, Russia's trade with CIS countries will top the $100 billion mark in 2009, and double by 2010 as compared to 2005.