Russia - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Sidorsky

Vladimir Putin: Mr Sidorsky, colleagues, it is my pleasure to welcome you to Moscow. Thank you for accepting our invitation.

The Council of Ministers of the Union State will convene in late October, with an expanded meeting of the Supreme State Council scheduled for December. Today we have an opportunity to exchange information on the development of our relations, including interaction in the economy.

In this respect, I would like to note that despite the recessionary developments in the global economy - there are also specific difficulties in the Russian and Belarusian economies - trade volume is gradually regaining lost ground. Compared with the first half of 2008, Belarusian imports to Russia have grown somewhat this year. Russian imports have fallen a bit, according to available statistics. But it's only a slight drop.

There is progress in Russian-Belarusian interaction on the main areas of cooperation, critical for commodity producers. Belarus continues to purchase energy at the lowest prices among the CIS countries and in the world in general, which is no exaggeration. This includes gas, which Belarus also receives at the lowest prices.

As for oil, reduced duties allow Belarusian oil refining companies to maintain a 100% workload and to export a large share of oil products, returning considerable cash revenues to the Belarusian budget.

Belarus is one of the key importers of a number of commodities for the Russian market, especially agricultural commodities. Belarus exports over 90% of its beef to Russia. As for dairy products, it's about 80%, and other exports are not much less.

I would also like to highlight a decision that we made and that you are aware of. The Russian Government equalised Belarusian and Russian suppliers in state purchases. If a commodity offered by your producer is 15% more expensive than a similar product manufactured by an international company, the purchase decision will be in favor of the Belarusian business, as it would be with a Russian company.

But this is a small part of our range of interaction, which is very broad and diversified.

We have a lot to discuss. We are happy to meet with you. Welcome!

Sergei Sidorsky: Thank you, Mr Prime Minister, colleagues. I would like to thank you, Mr Putin, for finding the time in your tight schedule to meet with us. We arranged this meeting when we met during the event to commemorate the beginning of the Second World War.

I asked you to schedule this meeting ahead of the meeting of the Union State Government, and the experts are actively working on the directives that we agreed to at the previous the meeting of the Union State Government in Minsk. The key agenda item of the Union State Government meeting is certainly the joint action plan that we signed to overcome the consequences of the global financial crisis. Russian and Belarusian ministries and agencies are actively working on it.

There are several issues that need coordinating to allow us to make hard and deliberate decisions at the Union State Government meeting on October 28, given that these decisions and protocol events are being prepared.

Trade turnover is one of the 22 issues we will consider today. The fall in trade turnover is drastic - over 40%. However, the GDP decrease in Belarus and in the Russian Federation is not extreme compared with the trade turnover. As a matter of fact, within the first eight months of 2009 the trade turnover fell to 2005 levels.

Nevertheless, we have cause for cautious optimism about the development of our economies. The outlook for the Russian economy is bright; industrial output has been on the rise since June, according to the Russian Ministry of Economic Development. There are certain industrial cooperation issues to address since both Russians and Belarusians are employed at joint ventures. The share of industrial business cooperation is over 60%.

I would like to touch on boosting trade turnover for the remaining three months of this year. There are also a few pending routine issues regarding oil supplies to Belarus and oil refining at our facilities.

We have drafted a joint action plan for the development of fuel and energy production, as agreed. This plan has been submitted to the Russian Ministry of Energy. We invited Mr Sechin to Belarus to discuss this issue. The negotiations have been very fruitful, and I would like to discuss this today as well.

It is very important to consider several questions concerning the science and technology programme. I'd like the space programme to be included on the agenda of the next Union State Government meeting among other science and technology programmes. The Energia Corporation and the Belarusian company Gosvoyenprom have worked out a promising programme which would allow us to be ranked third or fourth in space exploration, including Earth probes.

I suggest that you, the Chairman of the Union State Government, consider these issues and provide the relevant directives. There are also a few other points I would like to incorporate on the upcoming agenda.

Thank you for the opportunity to meet.



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