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14 Nov, 2009 11:50

Free trade call to Asia from Russia

Dmitry Medvedev has called for the lifting of trade restrictions at the APEC summit in Singapore. The Russian president also said the financial crisis has taught countries to work together against common threats.

President Medvedev has held a joint meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit at which 21 countries of the region are in attendance. The results of the meeting have not yet been made public, except that Dmitry Medvedev mentioned that the talks were very productive and leaders managed to discuss all major bilateral and global issues.

Both presidents had already met earlier this year in Moscow.

The ways the two countries are struggling with the crisis have a lot in common. Both countries have been diminishing the dominance of the American dollar and both are seeking to find another currency to replace it.

During the first two days in Singapore both leaders have made statements that it remains important for governments to continue to support economies, have an anti-crisis strategy and stimulus packages to support demand and to have cheaper loans on the market.

Protectionism – the new mantra of developing economies

“Protectionism should be combated in all its forms, not only in trade. Through free trade we can also fight poverty. Access of developing nations to international markets is a guarantee of their further progressive development,” pronounced the Russian president.

Despite this remark, President Medvedev is one of the few leaders willing to admit his country has been supporting domestic producers through protectionism.

However, Medvedev promised that “The protective measures we have taken during this period are short-term, and will later be abolished.”

Russian businesses have hailed the initiatives towards a freer market, especially the free flow of investment.

Meanwhile, Gazprom Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Medvedev pointed out that:

“It is quite obvious that the oil and gas sector was heavily underinvested this year – 100 billion dollars less comparatively to the pre-crisis year.”

He also warned that “it has a big danger because you cannot change the situation overnight. If we do not invest today, then we will see the deficit of oil and gas resources for all the markets.”

While praising the fact that the crisis has united the world’s nations, Dmitry Medvedev says it is also an opportunity to judge their partners’ actions. The crisis has shown how dangerously interdependent all economies are, and sustainable growth can only be achieved by reducing imbalances.

To reduce dependence on the dollar, Russia is already moving to transactions in other currencies with some of its partners.

The Chairman of Russia’s VEB Bank Vladimir Dmitriyev shared that “APEC is not yet talking about introducing its own currency to replace the dollar, but Russia is negotiating using national currencies in trade with China and India. We are already using the rouble with CIS countries. The crisis shows the need for more diversification in currencies for transactions.”

While China says it is important to continue stimulating demand and offering cheaper loans, Russia insists it is time to think about wrapping up the anti-crisis packages.

Russia's target is more stable growth and less dependency on a resource based economy. According to President Medvedev, it will be down to innovation to power the modernization of Russian industry.

Innovation is another important issue that Dmitry Medvedev raised in his latest address to the nation. He insisted that, in order to modernize the economy, Russia should be focused on developing advanced technologies.

Evgeny Kaspersky, the founder of Kaspersky’s Lab, told RT that it is not enough to have a good plan for development.

“We need to have better business education for our companies to help them to start operating in the East and West,” said Kaspersky.

He believes many people still have an Iron Curtain mentality that prevents them from having proper communication with the East and the West.

Still, according to Kaspersky, the software business has a good future in Russia, mainly because of Russia’s technical education system which is competitive. “There are many universities with thousands of students with probably the best technical education. Russian software engineers are known as the best across the globe.” But some things are missing, he added.

“Unfortunately, there is a lack of management, marketing and ambitious targets.”