Dmitry Medvedev took part in the APEC CEO Summit, the plenary session of the APEC Business Advisory Council, APEC Leaders and APEC Business Advisory Council Dialogue, and a meeting of APEC leaders with Pacific Island nation leaders.
Dmitry Medvedev’s remarks:
Mr Chairman of the APEC CEO Summit Isikeli Taureka,
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express our gratitude to our partners from Papua New Guinea for their hospitality and good organisation of the APEC CEO Summit, an authoritative forum that provides an opportunity for direct communication with leading business representatives in the Asia-Pacific region. This kind of dialogue is highly relevant at the moment, perhaps more than ever, given the complex and sometimes unpredictable situation that has developed in the global economy.
On the one hand, the global economy has generally recovered from the 2008 crisis. Many system-wide errors that had led to the crisis were exposed then and subsequently corrected. These changes affected the financial markets and public debt management. We all worked on it, including Russia. Large banks have revised their high-risk asset policies.
But on the other hand, the revival of the economy is still slow and unstable. Unfortunately, the global situation looks worse than it did 10 years ago in a number of aspects. Total world debt has increased significantly. Emerging markets have become more vulnerable – this is absolutely certain. The monetary policies have become tighter. The vast majority of countries have not yet reached their target GDP growth rate. In some countries, protectionist sentiments are growing, manifested not only in theoretical arguments, but also in practical decisions. This can lead – has already led, in fact – to trade wars.
Economic sanctions have become an instrument of political pressure and unfair competition. All this taken together can lead to drastic consequences.
This is happening amid the digital revolution, which is an indisputable benefit from the social development perspective. It opens up tremendous opportunities. At the same time, it carries potential threats, like any revolution, such as the deepening inequality between people and between countries, a surge in unemployment, and infringement of individual privacy. So far, we do not have any universal solutions for dealing with these problems, but they must be sought.
In the current conditions of interconnectedness and openness of national economies, these factors can provoke new crises, which, if unleashed, will have global implications.
The Asia-Pacific region is at the epicentre of global processes and is not protected by immunity. Russia is a part of this region, a country that sees its present and future closely connected with the Asia-Pacific region and believes that it is essential to rely on common agreed positions to overcome these challenges.
I will now briefly discuss several areas for our collaboration.
First of all, the global economy needs clear and transparent rules of trade. Therefore, a key goal is to combine efforts to improve the effectiveness of the World Trade Organisation and its regulatory role.
Like many countries, we recognise that the organisation needs to be modernised, but without weakening its influence or undermining the fundamental principles of its work, let alone its dismantling, which would mean a collapse of civilised trade.
The institutional foundations of international trade formed by the WTO also need to be preserved to condition further deepening of regional economic integration. Russia strongly believes that transparent WTO rules incorporating the specifics of each Asia-Pacific, each APEC economy, are essential for creating an Asia-Pacific free trade zone, making it a truly open market, rather than a narrow-format system of collective protectionism.
I would suggest the Eurasian Economic Union as an example of such an integration platform, an alliance which Russia and its partners are developing in strict accordance with the WTO principles. It is one of the largest regional associations in terms of market capacity and a single market with uniform rules for doing business.
We are cooperating with other integration projects and are now working on aligning it with the well-known Chinese Belt and Road initiative. We are working in close contact as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. We also have strong ties with ASEAN. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has launched an initiative to create the Greater Eurasian Partnership, based on openness and mutual trust between states, and uniform rules of the game.
Asia-Pacific countries joining this format would help harmonise the multi-level integration architecture that is being formed on the continent. We invite our colleagues and stakeholders to collectively develop the landscape for such work.
We believe that a similar principle could underlie the Asia-Pacific free trade zone concept. This would promote truly comprehensive and indivisible economic growth in Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific region.
The second area for cooperation is building infrastructure links within the region. Just look at the world map to see the great distances separating our countries. On the other hand, this does not prevent our peoples from getting to know each other better and better, developing science and culture cooperation and proving again and again that no distance is a barrier for those who seek to establish good relations.
Nevertheless, to successfully trade and invest, we need a developed transport infrastructure and supply chains. Russia is working to improve transit routes crossing its territory. We have started a large-scale upgrade of our railways; we are building cross-border oil and gas pipelines; and we are coordinating our steps with the key projects of our neighbours. This work will continue in the coming years. Our plans include linking various infrastructure projects in the Eurasian Union and as part of the Northern Sea Route development. This is essential for the formation of a qualitatively new transport and logistics architecture on a continental scale.
We have also initiated projects to integrate remote areas of the Asia-Pacific region within the APEC. The plan is to prepare a framework programme document that will determine specific steps for the development of competitive industries in these areas, reducing digital inequality, ensuring quality education, healthcare and, of course, tourism.
The third area I would like to mention is efficient use of the available energy resources, which is essential for the implementation of a sustainable and comprehensive development agenda in the Asia-Pacific region. According to forecasts, renewable energy sources, for all their relevance and our support, will not be able to fully meet the growing needs of the region. The same can be said about the vast potential of nuclear energy. Therefore, the conventional types of fuel will still prevail, natural gas being the most environmentally friendly and efficient of them.
Russia is developing both gas pipeline infrastructure and liquefied natural gas production facilities. We are also upgrading the Northern Sea Route and planning to create a gas hub in Kamchatka, in the Far East of our country, which will significantly increase our ability to supply liquefied natural gas to the Asia-Pacific economies. We are ready to develop relations in the gas sector with all interested partners.
It would be useful to establish interaction between gas producers here in the APR and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, an international platform for coordinating efforts to expand the range of uses of this type of fuel.
We expect that the energy sector of the Asia-Pacific region will develop on the basis of market principles, without any illegitimate unilateral restrictions.
The fourth area is building up the potential of micro-enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses, which are considered to be the driving force of economic growth in the region. Here, by the way, we are actively using the experience of our APEC partners, who have probably advanced even further than our country in this respect.
We pay special attention to the involvement of women in economic activities. This topic is regularly discussed at the meeting. Russia ranks high in terms of the number of women holding senior positions in business. Women occupy half of the financial director positions, and almost 30 percent of them head HR and internal audit services. More than a third of small businesses in our country are also led by women. Therefore, in this sense, we believe we are pursuing the right policy.
The fifth area is building a digital economy, creating added value through the digitalisation of manufacturing processes and business models. Digital solutions are becoming a key factor in improving countries’ competitiveness, economic growth and living standards.
In Russia, the accelerated introduction of digital technologies in the economy and the social sphere is one of the national priorities. We have adopted the Digital Economy programme aimed at resolving several important issues at once.
First, in the coming years, we want to connect all medical and educational institutions to modern electronic services. This will apply to each and every locality with a population of at least 250 people. Second, we need to ensure information security of infrastructure facilities, data transmission and storage systems, including those for personal data. We will develop a legal framework to regulate the digital sphere. Third, it is necessary to enhance crosscutting digital technology research and develop our own digital platforms. This will give us new ways to organise production processes, financial services and logistics using the most advanced technologies, including the so-called distributed registry protocol. By 2024, we plan to create at least 10 national companies working on this.
Finally, we are viewing the digital environment now being formed in our country as an integral part of the international digital landscape. It could not have been otherwise, because the digital environment is indivisible in its nature. Together with our partners in the Eurasian Union, we are systematically working on the creation of a single digital landscape of the union.
We are developing interaction in other multilateral formats. The Russia-ASEAN forum and the East Asia Summit were been held recently; APEC, too, holds significant potential for digital integration. Last year, Russia proposed a number of initiatives – for sharing the experience of government regulation in the digital sphere, and finding a balance to avoid data protection interfering with business. It is necessary to adopt national strategies for developing future technology markets, to create a single conceptual framework, which is certainly not easy.
Russia’s ideas were reflected in the forum’s roadmap drawn up last year. A framework programme for the implementation of the roadmap is to be submitted tomorrow for approval by the leaders. We hope this will give a start to practical work. At the same time, it would be wrong to limit it to digital commerce, even though it is a very important area that we are all involved in. Digital technology should penetrate all areas – thus we will achieve truly comprehensive development. It is in our common interest.
The business community in the Asia-Pacific region is capable of making a significant contribution to the development of the digital economy. We propose exploring the possibility of building a network that would prepare business for introducing advanced technologies. We in Russia are already working on this – through engineering centres, innovation clusters and technology parks.
In conclusion, I would like to call the attention of the regional business community to another promising source of long-term growth in the Asia-Pacific region. I would like to cite Russia’s programme for the accelerated socio-economic development of the Far East. We can offer mutually beneficial cooperation in the development of this vast territory. The potential here is truly enormous potential. We propose joint development of advanced production facilities, transport and logistics, industrial, telecommunications and social infrastructure. The volume of potential work is immense.
We have worked hard to create the most comfortable environment for doing business in the Far East, comparable with the best world analogues. As a result, it has become one of the most promising centres for creating technological and industrial alliances and implementing large projects. These unique opportunities are being used by many companies from the Asia-Pacific countries, primarily from China, Japan, Korea, India, and a number of ASEAN countries.
For those who have not yet had a chance to check this out, it gives me great pleasure to invite you to join us at the Eastern Economic Forum, which is annually held in Vladivostok in early September.
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I am confident that our forum is able to successfully find every solution for sustainable, balanced, and innovative growth in the interest of our common region’s prosperity, based on the principles that are fundamental to APEC, and regardless of the geopolitical situation. Moreover, we will all benefit from this together.