TRANSCRIPT: Press statement and [Putin] answers to journalists’ questions following the APEC summit

Map of Asia-Pacific Highlighting APEC Member States

(Kremlin.ru – Bali, Indonesia – October 8, 2013)

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

I want to note that the APEC summit had good, practical outcomes.

Let me recall once again that the Asia-Pacific region is home to more than 40 percent of the world’s population; it generates 56 percent of global GDP and accounts for 45 percent of international trade. As you know, such figures speak for themselves.

Last year Russia acted as APEC Chair for the first time, and we worked closely with our Indonesian partners. This joint work has proven its relevance, especially during a year that Russia was G20 Chair, and Indonesia that of APEC.

Similar problems were addressed, and new growth models were discussed in September at the G20 leaders’ meeting in St Petersburg and here [in Bali]. Members of both forums share a similar understanding that we need to invest in the real economy, look for additional sources of investment, increase employment levels, create new, high-quality jobs, and strengthen social safeguards.

During their discussions APEC leaders paid special attention to the idea of interconnection, as defined by our Indonesian colleagues. Our country is ready to make a tangible contribution to this notion’s concrete implementation. As you know, we are expanding the capacity of Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur railways, and increasing that of the Northern Sea Route.

These measures will allow us to establish new, shorter and more profitable routes between Asia and Europe, and save billions of dollars delivering goods to both continents.

A major energy development programme is underway in Russia. In the future, our companies will be able to significantly increase fuel supplies to Asia-Pacific markets. This will give the region much-needed energy to facilitate growth.

The Sakhalin deposits already cover about 10 percent of Japan’s needs in liquefied natural gas (LNG). Energy supplies to our APEC partners will increase after Gazprom builds a new LNG facility in Vladivostok, with a capacity of 10 million tonnes. We have invited companies from APEC countries to engage in these and other large-scale projects in Siberia and the Far East.

The sustainable, long-term development of the Asia-Pacific region is not possible without increasing bilateral trade. As is well known, there are still considerable problems in this respect. Deepening regional integration processes, and creating free trade and investment zones, will act as stimuli for developing business contacts, and establishing a clear and predictable business environment.

We are actively working in this direction, and see this as a contribution to strengthening the multilateral trading system. The Customs Union we established with Belarus and Kazakhstan acts in accordance with WTO principles and is open to cooperation with all Asia-Pacific economies.

We also exchanged views on a number of key issues relating to multilateral cooperation in cultural and educational spheres. They include the project of forming a common educational space in the Asia-Pacific region. As you remember, Russia suggested this idea last year, during the summit in Vladivostok. This proposal is already being realised; the formation of an inter-university cooperation network is already underway. Programmes for graduate student and researcher exchanges are being prepared at the Far Eastern Federal University.

Following the APEC summit a declaration on improving connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region was adopted. It is aimed at accelerating the pace of development in the region, and enhancing its role in the global economy. We adopted a joint statement in support of a multilateral trading system, as well as the swift conclusion of the Doha round of WTO negotiations.

The meeting with business representatives was very useful. CEOs of more than 1,200 regional companies from various sectors ­ from energy to agriculture ­ took part in the APEC CEO Summit.

This year, Russia joined the APEC Business Travel Card scheme, which exempts card holders from visa requirements. This is an indubitable stimulus for increasing trade, economic and investment ties.

I am sure that decisions made at the APEC summit will contribute to developing the region, and help stabilise the global economy.

At the APEC summit I held bilateral meetings with the leaders of China, Indonesia and Japan. We discussed the most important aspects of our relationships, defined future plans, and touched on pressing international issues. I had brief discussions with many state leaders ­ virtually all of them ­ on the summit’s sidelines, as they say. And in this regard it is important to note that almost all partners were committed to further deepening cooperation with our country.

Finally, I want to emphasise that APEC’s revitalisation is in the interests of all the region’s economies, and virtually the entire global economy.

Thank you for your attention.

QUESTION: Before I ask my question, I would like to wish you a happy birthday and give you two books. One is “Key Management Ideas: Thinkers that Changed the Management World” (by Stuart Crainer), and the second is Pyotr Stolypin’s “I Believe in Russia”.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Thank you. This is both unexpected and very nice: thank you.

QUESTION: And my question: you talked about how APEC and Russia should cooperate in developing Russia’s Far East, Siberia, and other regions ­ at least this is what we are proposing. Did I understand correctly that this is one of our objectives for APEC? And do APEC, Asia-Pacific region countries have the necessary capacities and capabilities? Will they take this on?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of course. Such cooperation is needed. I talked about the Indonesian Chair’s initiatives to bring countries together, and create the conditions for economic development, interaction and cooperation.

What are we talking about exactly? First and foremost there is a physical, structural dimension, building infrastructure. Surely you’ve heard that many Asian countries are very interested in shipping routes through the Arctic Ocean. This is natural.

As I already said, this will save tens of billions of dollars when delivering goods and cargo from Asia to Europe and vice versa. So China and other Asian countries are watching very closely to see how we are expanding the capabilities of the Northern Sea Route.

Today, the President of South Korea [Park Geun-hye] talked about her country’s keen interest in expanding the Trans-Siberian Railway’s capacities. And we plan to expand both that line as well as the Baikal-Amur Mainline. And naturally, if our partners are interested in this, I hope that their heightened attention will open up possibilities for joint investments. Especially since Russia itself will invest in these projects, including ­ you know about our plans ­ money from the National Welfare Fund. This is one direction of our cooperation].

The second is the purely human dimension of the convergence between Asia-Pacific countries. And I have already said that we joined the so-called APEC Business Travel Card scheme, and plans to develop this scheme that enables business people to cross borders without visas.

Finally, student and academic exchanges. Many of our colleagues here talked about their countries’ opportunities, those of Taiwan, and other countries too. It is clear that in this case and in this region our focus is the Far Eastern Federal University, which is becoming more and more authoritative and attracting attention. All this will give us the opportunity to talk about bringing together Asia-Pacific countries and our natural participation in these processes.

It is clear that the pace of development of Asia-Pacific region countries forces us to reflect on the nature of our economic ties and cooperation with various countries. Today 50 percent of our trade is with Europe, but in the light of Asia’s development prospects, we will, of course, pay special attention to this region.

QUESTION: Mr President, I must admit that in addition to the summit itself, we were particularly looking forward to another summit event, namely your meeting with Barack Obama. But as we all know, it did not take place, and Mr Obama did not come. Yesterday you were sympathetic about this.

Can you tell us whether you discussed the possibility of a new meeting, and whether such a meeting is necessary in view of current more or less positive developments regarding the situation in Syria? And yesterday we also saw you and US Secretary of State John Kerry greet each other warmly before the photo ceremony. Can we say that now Russia-US relations are no longer in deadlock? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, they never were. With regards to Syria, our differences were first and foremost tactical. After all, the US does not want Al-Qaeda to come to power in Syria, isn’t that right? They are always talking about this. And we don’t want that either.

In general, we share common goals related to stabilising and democratising the situation in Syria, and creating conditions for the peaceful coexistence of all peoples who live there, people of all faiths, religions, and ethnicities. It is a complicated country.

Our differences were ­ and in part still are ­ concerned with the means to achieve that goal. But in this respect significant progress has been made, as you can see. We agreed with our American partners about how and what we should do in the medium-term.

I must say that doubts about whether Syria’s leadership could adequately respond to the [UN Security Council] resolution regarding the elimination of chemical weapons did not materialise. The Syrian leadership, Syria very actively engaged in this work, and is acting in a very transparent way, helping international structures eradicate chemical weapons from the country. I hope that this work will continue at the same pace, in the same vein.

But in other fields our cooperation with the United States was never interrupted. This applies to our negotiations on weapons of mass destruction, non-proliferation, and our economic cooperation. Contacts between our foreign and defence ministries continue. I think the situation is quite satisfactory, although naturally we still have a lot to do in order to work more effectively, especially with regards to the economy.

Our volume of trade is declining for the second year in a row. Bearing in mind our potential, the year before last our trade was not very significant: $31 billion. And this year it will likely be $28 billion. After all, the United States is also a country in the Asia-Pacific region, because they are all situated along the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Conversely, our trade with China is constantly increasing. Its growth rate fell slightly, but this year it will increase by at least 5 percent, and already amounts to $57.5 billion. $57.5 billion on the one hand and $28 billion on the other. Do you see the difference? Therefore, keeping in mind that much of our potential has yet to be harnessed, we still have a lot of work to do.

And you know, I do not think we need to plan and hold meetings just for the sake of holding meetings. Our joint work is regular, stable, and quite efficient, especially in recent times, even on complex topics where we were unable to reach an agreement. Our foreign ministries work together, as do other government agencies. I am sure that when the time is ripe a meeting will take place.

QUESTION: I would like to request some clarifications regarding Syria. It is believed that destroying Assad’s chemical weapons will take a year. Do you think this is realistic? And what would happen after that? How do you see Assad’s fate after that? And what about Syria’s?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The Syrian people must decide Assad’s fate, and not Russia’s leadership or that of any other country. Only the Syrian people can use their sovereign right to determine their country’s future, its organisation, and choose their own leaders.

QUESTION: And is it realistic to do this in a year? To eliminate such a huge amount?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: A year? I don’t know since it’s not us who defines this, but rather the experts of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. And we trust them; we, the Americans and the international community trust them. They’re people who have authority and credibility throughout the world. If they say it’s possible to do this in a year, then it means it can be done.

QUESTION: How do you see Russia’s role in the Asia-Pacific region given China’s growing influence here? And how seriously do you take competition with China in the region, in the light of the fact that you are also partners? To what extent are partnership and competition compatible here?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Competition is the engine of progress in all fields, economic and political. So I do not see any contradiction or tragedy here; everything is normal, natural, and developing as it should. In some fields there is competition and in others cooperation. But today we have a great deal of  common ground for cooperating with China, and this cooperation is proceeding in different directions.

And as I already said at the CEO summit, if we’re talking about energy, then this includes hydrocarbons ­ different ones, both oil and gas, and possibly LNG in the future ­ electricity, and nuclear energy. As you know, we built two units of the Tianwan nuclear power plant, and the third and fourth units are coming up.

But energy is far from the only thing we’re working at. We are resolving problems associated with cooperation in aviation. Of course the Chinese are primarily interested in heavy helicopters, and here Russia undoubtedly is a world leader. Probably no one but us makes such helicopters. There are some in the States, but I don’t think that even there they have such heavy, 20-tonne ones. We will either upgrade the existing one or build a completely new machine ­ this is being agreed on by specialists and experts.

We have good prospects in aircraft engineering. Of course it is difficult to break into the international market for wide-bodied aircraft, very difficult. But we have opportunities, financial resources, technology, and huge markets in both Russia and China. If we make a competitive, truly competitive machine, then it will go on its respective market and have good prospects.

There are other fields, such as the metals industry, as well as good prospects for cooperation in transport, in developing infrastructure. After all, some routes linking Asia and Europe pass through Russia and China, and others could too. And here too we need to decide with our partners on the direction.

We have a lot of problems related to environmental protection, ecology. It’s difficult to overestimate cross-border cooperation on this topic. Look at what happened during heavy floods and high water. And if any man-made disasters occur, they will affect both China and Russia. It is very important to establish relationships between our respective regions, and between corresponding services.

At present all this cooperation occurs at a very high level.

QUESTION: A question about the faraway Netherlands, if I may, where the local police beat up a Russian diplomat in front of his children. How will Russia react to this incident? How will this  affect the future of Russian-Dutch relations?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is a gross violation of the Vienna Convention. We are awaiting an explanation and an apology, and we expect the perpetrators to be brought to account. We will react depending on the Dutch side’s further actions.

QUESTION: A question on another topic. We are nearing the date when Ukraine will be signing an Association Agreement with the European Union. As the date grows closer, we are hearing a wider variety of viewpoints, including that relations between Russia and Ukraine will be seriously damaged.

How do you feel about such predictions? And in your view, how much does Ukraine’s rapprochement with the EU signify an estrangement from the Customs Union? As you know, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov suggested that the Customs Union nations should hold consultations with the EU.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Consultations with the EU?

REPLY: Yes.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Thanks for the advice. We will think about who we should hold consultations with. As for consultations with the EU, we are in constant contact with our colleagues in the European Union. We have regular meetings in Russia and in EU countries. We have a comprehensive system in place.

With regard to estrangement from Russia, I do not think that this event will lead to estrangement because, as I have already said, regardless of the paths we take, we will still meet somewhere in the end. The issue at hand is the cost of that path and its efficacy.

What we must do is take measures, as has already been said many times, including by me, to protect our market. We have a fairly big difference in the customs protection level of our markets with Ukraine and with the Customs Union.

Indeed, if it comes to that and Ukraine lowers the level of protection for its own customs territory, then we will have to take certain protective measures. Certainly, these can only be measures that meet World Trade Organisation regulations. But one of the provisions of the free trade zone within the CIS gives us the right to introduce protective measures. It is stated clearly.

In addition, questions of standardisation and technical standards are also quite complicated and this can create certain problems in trade and cooperation. All this could result in some damage to our relations in the economic sphere, but I am confident that we will not have any issues politically.

Ukraine and Russia are absolutely, undeniably fraternal nations, as I have already said; we are, fundamentally, a single people. So naturally, we will continue to cooperate just as we are doing now, despite all these rather emotional and turbulent discussions on Ukraine’s possible signing of the document on its association with the EU.

Ten days ago, our banks formalised another loan to Ukraine for $750 million, with my approval, of course. And Gazprom, also with input from the Russian leadership, decided to help Ukraine fill a gas storage facility with a discount of, I believe, $260 per 1,000 cubic metres. I may be mistaken on the exact figure, but just recently, the price for Ukraine was $400, and now it has dropped to $380 or $390. In addition, Gazprom gave this discount for Ukraine’s underground gas storage facility.

In other words, we are cooperating; we are helping Ukraine, our Ukrainian partners, our friends. But if we see that the signed documents undermine our own market, then naturally, we will have to take certain measures to protect our market.

As for advice about whom we should consult, and how, we hope that our Ukrainian friends will also consult with us before they take any action. I am serious. We have suggested holding such consultations at the governmental level, to look at and realistically assess all the pluses and minuses of developing relations with our partners outside the CIS.

QUESTION: Mr President, I would like to ask about your conversation with John Kerry. What did you discuss? Did he pass on a message from Barack Obama?

Going back to APEC issues, Russian Mi-35 helicopters flew over the sea today. How do you assess the prospects for defence cooperation? Have any Asia Pacific nations placed an order for Russian technology?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Mr Kerry and I spoke on the sidelines, between the sessions. Naturally, first and foremost, our conversation in this context addressed Syria. I have already given my assessment of this process. We have a mutual understanding of what we must do and how we must do it.

I am very pleased that President Obama took such a position; I don’t think this was an easy situation for him, but he made that decision. This has allowed us to not only bring our positions closer but also avoid tragedy. This is precisely what the Secretary of State and I talked about: we discussed the prospects for destroying chemical weapons in Syria and how we can build our future work in this and several other areas.

Incidentally, one of today’s priorities is not just to destroy chemical weapons but to revive the negotiation process between all conflicting sides at the Geneva platform. In this regard, I would like to say that we feel it is possible to expand the number of participants and include such large Islamic states as Indonesia, which is hosting us today.

This is a large Islamic state with the largest Muslim population in the world, and, in my view, its participation would be quite natural and we would welcome it.

QUESTION: Mr President, returning to the development of Siberia and the Far East: ultimately, this is a central issue for us at the APEC Summit. We know that recently, in the summer, you made some critical remarks concerning the implementation of that region’s development programme and promised to revisit this issue in October. Since the change in the leadership at the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, are you more or less satisfied with how things are going, or does the situation require an additional breakthrough?

And another question on this topic. Concerning the discussion on migrants, visas and so on, a suggestion has been voiced to either resettle migrants from Russia’s central regions to sparsely populated areas in Siberia that are experiencing a population decline, or to reinstate a visa regime with the neighbouring states where illegal immigrants come from. How do you feel about this issue?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: A visa regime within the CIS would mean pushing former Soviet republics away. We should not be pushing them away, but instead, drawing closer to them; however, we should make this process more civilised and set this work up so as not to irritate local residents, but instead, to elicit a positive reaction.

Our labour market needs additional workers for jobs that are not being filled by Russians. So we must examine this labour market more carefully and deal more professionally with the question of which jobs are open to migrants and which ones are not.

Moreover, and I have already said this many times, all migrants must clearly understand that if they come to the Russian Federation, they must speak the language and be familiar with the history and culture of the peoples in the region they are coming to, and they must respect our traditions, our laws and our culture. Law enforcement agencies must react accordingly. Here, public monitoring of law enforcement agencies is very important to put an end to any form of corruption.

As for Siberia and the Far East, it is impossible to force either Russian citizens or migrants wishing to live in Russia to go there; or at least, it is impossible to force them to move there. We must create favourable social and economic conditions, and that will be the main factor contributing to the success of those regions’ development.

QUESTION: Mr President, could I come back to the situation in the United States, the American economy this time.

This subject was no doubt discussed at the summit. How do you think the situation might develop and what impact could it have on Russia’s economy? Does Russia have enough of a solid margin to be able to stem any negative consequences that come up?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: That was not the subject of any special discussion. The US representative presented his vision of the situation above all in terms of the global economy’s development, and without linking it specifically to the situation with the US budget.

But we all know of course that the American economy is the world’s biggest, and when it goes through a turbulent phase, everyone else feels it too. The same goes for US Federal Reserve policy, the idea of tapering the easy money that the Federal Reserve has been putting into the economy over recent years. Any action in the US will make its effect felt in the global economy.

As for the Federal Reserve, even the statements by Federal Reserve directors affect the inflow or outflow ­ the outflow in this case ­ of the money supply and currency from developing markets. This will affect us too, to a certain extent, but less than in other developing countries.

Overall of course, we want the economy to recover as soon as possible and achieve steady growth rates, because we want to work together with our American partners. The global economy’s health depends a great deal on the American economy’s health. We therefore wish our American partners good luck and we hope that they will succeed in overcoming these domestic political problems (the situation there is not so much an economic issue as a domestic politics issue) as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Mr President, we saw that the President of Indonesia wished you a happy birthday yesterday. How did you celebrate?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: How did I celebrate? I hardly celebrated at all. Our last meeting yesterday was with the Chinese delegation, and I proposed to our Chinese friends that we drink a shot of vodka to mark the occasion. They agreed and so that is what we did. That was the whole celebration. But it was very warm, very companionable, like being with friends, you could say.

QUESTION: Did you get any presents?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, our Chinese friends brought along a big cake. We happily ate it. It was all rather a surprise and there was no kind of big feast or banquet in sight. It was all just improvisation.

QUESTION: Mr President, you have had four meetings with the Japanese Prime Minister over the last six months. Is this a sign that the ground is being prepared for a peace treaty? Also, did you sample the sake you were given as a gift, or did you only drink vodka?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You think I came here on a drinking spree? I did try the sake and drank some vodka. I drank vodka with the Chinese and sake with the Japanese. Just as well that I’m still quite capable of keeping myself under control. As for the sake, we’ll try that once we’re back in Moscow.

Regarding our relations with Japan, they are definitely in a good state today. Our trade is growing steadily. Trade with some other countries has dropped, but our trade with Japan continues to grow. As I said, our trade with China is growing, and with Japan it also continues to grow.

We have many good energy sector projects. As I said earlier, Russia supplies around 10 percent, I think, of Japan’s liquefied natural gas needs. We are building another LNG plant now near Vladivostok and will increase Russia’s share of the Japanese market.

The Japanese are also interested in working together in other fields too. As you know, our ties in the machine-building sector are developing quite well in the Far East and in the European part of Russia. We are working together in high-tech fields.

All of this makes it possible for us not to just to dream about but also to take practical steps towards concluding a peace treaty. For us to reach this goal, we need to see each other not as enemies but as friends, and I think that with Japan this is entirely possible.

As for the practical work, we have resumed the negotiating process between our foreign ministries, and work is going ahead at the expert level too. This autumn, in November I think, Russian foreign and defence ministers will visit Japan.

Thank you very much.