By Anna Forostenko
On Sunday, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev has attended the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum held in Honolulu, on Hawaii. When the forum’s participants asked him what he and his US counterpart Barack Obama had agreed on, Medvedev said smiling: “I will tell you but not everything”.
After a morning walk in a Hawaiian shirt along the beach the Russian president was in good spirits. One could tell it by the way he answered the first question about his conversation with Barack Obama. Obviously, one of the key topics of the discussion was Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO):
“I have thanked President Obama for taking intensive efforts for it. If it had been done before, Russia would have already been in the WTO and we would not have this strange situation when a large economy, which is a member of several organizations, is not a member of the WTO. I hope the WTO membership will results in positive changes in the Russian economy. Although we have had long preparations and a number of companies are experiencing problems and have certain fears the course remains unchangeable. We think that time was ripe for Russia’s entry to the WTO a long ago, that we are ready for it and we are happy that thanks to our joint efforts we hopefully will be able to finalize this process in the near future. The Russian economy will become much closer to the standards of the WTO and the international trade, which is important for all countries and for the WTO.”
Medvedev also stressed that the entry to the WTO will facilitate the diversification of the Russian economy. He reiterated that it is necessary to change the situation when the country relies only on its natural resources:
“Only companies based in Russia can change the state of things in the national economy. At the same time we expect that the new economy will be created receiving investments both from the Russian businesses and hi-tech foreign companies.”
However the investments imply that the country is ready to receive them and they should be wishful for the investors. According to Medvedev, Russia is ready for partnership agreements both with European and Asian countries:
“It is very important for to develop contacts in all directions. Russia’s trade volume with the EU countries is $250 billion. But the potential of the Asian Pacific markets is not smaller. We are developing in both directions and believe that fair harmonious development of Russia will be efficient.”
Although Russia is the country with European traditions it is also part of the Asian Pacific region, the president stressed:
“We are integrating with our neighbors – Kazakhstan and Belarus. Now this association is now called the Customs Union and in future in will be called the Eurasian Union, which directly points at Asia.”
When the Chinese representatives asked Medvedev if Russia plans to act as a mediator in future, Medvedev answered ironically: “We are doing nothing but acting as mediators. I am a professional mediator”.
Considering that before this meeting Medvedev had met Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda the question about the Kuril Islands was inevitable:
“One problem, which complicates our relations is the lack of a so-called peace treaty and the territorial dispute. Our position is clear: let’s not exaggerate this issue and continue to discuss it in a calm way. In our opinion, the current situation reflects status quo and the results of the Second World War. These islands are Russian territories that is why the President and other leaders are visiting them. At the same time we are not against Japan’s making investment in their development, we welcome them. We are opposing neither the arrival of Japanese experts to the islands nor their joint use by Russia and Japan. In my opinion economy should go before politics, which is the right thing as such.”
When answering the question about the future of Europe the president joked that his name is not Merkel or Sarkozy. “They would answer this question better than I”, he said. He added that the EU is now in more difficult situation than Russia. He also stressed the important role of euro:
“Without euro in the status of global reserve currency it would be much more difficult for us to live through in 2008-2009, and it will be more difficult for the American dollar too. Being a global reserve currency euro supports the functioning of the whole financial system. Euro is also a national currency in more than one country, which is the weak point of the system but there is nothing to do about that and now the EU states have to jointly look for the way out of the crisis.”
Medvedev said he does not like the idea of the creation of a new smaller EU.
In September 2012, the city of Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East will host next APEC forum. The agenda will include the issues of trade and energy cooperation, food security and also the issues of logistics.