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  • Following the G20 Summit President of Russia Vladimir Putin gave a press conference

Vladimir Putin’s news conference following the G20 summit

During a news conference that Vladimir Putin gave after the G20 summit, the Russian President answered the questions on important global economic and political issues. He talked about the economic situation in the Eurozone and policy coordination measures included in the summit declaration aimed at mitigating economic shocks. Journalists also asked Putin about the G20's and Russia's stance on Syria.

Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen! First of all I would like to say how much I appreciate the effort our hosts have put into organizing this meeting and creating such an excellent environment for our work. I think the G20 leaders came a step closer to mutual understanding in Los Cabos and worked together smoothly, constructively, fruitfully, and reached compromises.

The bilateral talks among the leaders on the summit's sidelines reflected this, as did the G20 working sessions themselves of course. We had a substantial discussion on reviving and stimulating economic growth, focusing particularly on the problems of global imbalances and how to reduce developed countries' debt levels.

I would name the decision to increase the International Monetary Fund's resource base by $430 billion as being one of the summit's main results. This is a necessary step for stabilizing the global economy and lowering risks on the financial markets. Russia is ready to provide the IMF with up to $10 billion from the Russian Central Bank's international reserves.

We believe that this increase of the IMF's resource base must be followed by reform of the IMF's management, so as to give a greater role to the fast-growing economies. We should complete the reforms begun in 2010 and then review the way quotas and votes in the IMF are calculated. This would give the organization greater legitimacy and allow it to respond faster to crisis signs in the global economy.

The summit produced some important decisions on financial regulation. We agreed to adopt a new charter for the Financial Stability Board, not only giving the Board international organization status, but also resolving institutional and expert issues and giving it greater opportunities.

We approved the principles for implementing national financial education programmes, which were put together by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development with the Russian Federation's active support.

Trade issues were the subject of much discussion, especially the matter of renouncing protectionism with regard to goods, services, and investment. We paid particular attention to social issues, above all how to facilitate job creation and employment.

The working session also examined food security issues. Limited resources, climate change, and volatile raw materials prices are among the negative factors in this area. It is possible to stabilize the situation, including by concentrating efforts on resolving agriculture sector priorities. The big issues here include increasing production and raising the quality of crops, investing more in infrastructure and improving the data systems we have on agricultural production and markets. We agreed to continue working together on research and development and on exchanging technology.

The issues discussed in Los Cabos will remain on the agenda and develop further during Russia's upcoming G20 presidency. We will ensure the group's continuity and focus on discussing the problems that the G20 was established to address. These main problems include reforming the international currency and financial system, strengthening the international financial institutions, and continuing the changes in financial market regulation.

We will also continue the discussions on non-financial issues traditionally on the agenda such as energy and climate, global trade and development assistance. Of course, the agenda for the next summit, which will take place in St Petersburg in autumn 2013, will be determined by developments in the global economy and the situation in international finances. But I can say already now that we will definitely do a stocktaking of all of the G20's earlier commitments.

The G20's decisions concern all countries in the world, and the G20 members thus cannot let themselves be guided only by their own positions and interests. In this respect we think it important to establish a truly broad-based discussion and discussion platform that would enable countries not in the G20 to express their views too, including through influential international organizations, experts, and business and civil society representatives.

Our goal is concrete results that can have a real impact on stabilizing global economic development and raising our peoples' prosperity. We believe that we can reach these goals if we join efforts.

Ladies and gentlemen, the summit was a good opportunity for discussion at a number of bilateral meetings with some of the main international players today. I discussed a broad range of issues with President of the United States Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister (Yoshihiko) Noda, (British) Prime Minister David Cameron, (Turkish) Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, and the Presidents of Brazil and Indonesia.

I note that everyone taking part in the meetings is committed to active work together and not just on resolving global economic problems and dealing with the crisis and so on. The summit was useful and interesting. Thank you for your attention. In the corridors, of course, there was also the chance to talk a bit with practically everyone taking part, and we had some quite constructive and substantive exchanges. Thank you once more.

Question: Mr President, you probably discussed the Syrian issue a lot with your partners over these last two days. Many of your partners think that the only possible solution now is regime change, President Assad's departure, in other words. You have said repeatedly that Russia is not clinging to Assad's regime in particular, but that we need to have a clear picture of what would come next, of what a post-Assad Syria would look like. I imagine you put this question to your partners. What was their response? Were you satisfied with what you heard from them? If so, would Russia be willing to agree to regime change in Syria?

Vladimir Putin: I see that I am going to have to repeat Russia's position of principle. We think that no one has the right to decide for other peoples who should come to power and who should be removed from power. Yes, we know that part of Syria's people, those represented by the armed opposition, want to see President Assad leave.

Firstly, they do not represent the entire Syrian people. Secondly, the most important thing is not simply changing the regime itself, but ensuring that if it does change - and this should be achieved through constitutional means only - the bloodshed will then stop and peace will return to the country.

But achieving this goal requires putting in the necessary work first. All of the parties in the armed conflict have to agree to stop the bloodshed, sit down at the negotiating table and first come to an agreement on how they are going to continue living together in the same country and guarantee the interests and security of everyone involved in the conflict. This is to take place first, and not as in some countries in North Africa where violence continues today even after the regime has changed.

This is Russia's position of principle. I think that our partners not only listened to but to a certain extent agreed with this point of view during the discussions on Syria, although we do still have differences in our assessments. We agreed to work together on resolving this problem.

Question: Mr President, you mentioned the $10 billion that Russia will make available to the IMF. Other countries are doing the same thing. More than $400 billion will be allocated. But you have said on a number of occasions that injecting cash is a measure that can stabilize the situation at a given point but is not a systemic solution. What kinds of systemic solutions are there for reinvigorating the global economy and improving its health?

Vladimir Putin: First, with regard to cash injections, I was referring to pumping cash into banks, the industries and so on, and not into international organizations.

Second, we are not providing our $10 billion in the same way as other participants in this undertaking, but are earmarking the money and are ready to make it available if the need arises.

Third, we and the other participants are not simply handing the money over. These are returnable funds. Essentially, this is a form of placement for our gold and currency reserves. As you know, we have the world's third-biggest gold and currency reserves - more than $500 billion. Overall, even in terms of our own financial interests, this operation makes sense for Russia.

It will certainly stabilize the situation and increase the IMF's capabilities. Working according to its rules and regulations, the IMF can work quite effectively to support stabilization in the global financial system, and this is something that we as well as all actors in international life want to see. We thus think it is a completely justified and correct decision.

As for the fundamental approach, of course, resolving global financial and economic problems requires us not just to know the numbers and help out the problem economies, the countries facing difficulties. We have to also change the way the global financial system works, change its underlying principles, consolidate budgets, raise financial discipline, bring down public debt (it is beyond the limits when you have average public debt of more than 80% in the Eurozone and 104% in the United States), and reduce budget deficits. The budget deficit limit is still fairly stable in the Eurozone, but in some countries this is not the case, including in the United States, where we see figures of more than 9%. True, a downward trend is emerging now, and this is a very good signal for the entire global economy.

If we resolve the fundamental issues, we could then say that the situation in global finances and the global economy is genuinely starting to change, but these are not easy tasks. The important thing is that almost everyone taking part in the discussions on these issues generally agreed with these approaches.

Russia will work actively with its partners when it takes over the G20 presidency next year, and these issues will be key themes for the agenda next year and for our preparatory work. I hope that we will manage to agree on work together in this priority area.

Question: We are all trying to guess if you will go to the Olympic Games in London. People have various scenarios. Perhaps you discussed this matter with Mr. Cameron. Could you enlighten us please? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Why spend your time guessing? You could have asked and I'd have told you long ago. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will head Russia's delegation at the opening of the London Olympics. I will most probably also go to the Games. I want to see the judo competitions, as I said to Mr. Cameron yesterday. He said he would be happy to see me in London. Perhaps we will have the chance to meet then. This would be a private trip, in any case.

Question: It sounds a little odd perhaps, but you are a newcomer at G20 summits. This gives you the chance in a way to speak your likes and dislikes without being encumbered by excess political and diplomatic niceties, all the more so as Russia will be chairing the next G20 summit. So, what changes do you think should be made?

Vladimir Putin: I think that more attention could be paid to the key issues the G20 was established to address. I mentioned this at the start. In other words, the G20 should focus more on the architecture of international financial relations and the global economy.

We must get an understanding of what is going to happen in the Eurozone. We should agree to and understand that we will have some greater influence in the IMF and other financial institutions. If we place our gold and currency reserves in euros and European countries' state bonds, and if we have around half or more of our reserves in dollars and U.S. treasury bonds, we wish to know what is going to happen to the dollar after the U.S. presidential election in November, and how the United States plans to tackle the problems before them, the 15-trillion public debt, for example. We need to know what will happen to the world's main reserve currency and what we should prepare for.

I think these issues should be at the center of the G20's attention. As I said, our colleagues show understanding for our concerns and interest in our proposals to broaden the discussions on these key issues. In principle, I am happy with this.

Question: I have a question about your meeting with Barack Obama. There has been talk of late that the U.S. might be ready soon to abolish the Jackson-Vanik amendment, but it would be replaced instead by the "Magnitsky law" with all the ensuing consequences this would have for Russian-U.S. relations. Did you discuss this matter in any detail during your meeting with President Obama, and what arguments did you put forward?

Vladimir Putin: We did discuss this issue. I did not make any arguments after all, what can I say? If Congress wants to pass this law it will. But these are completely different things. The Jackson-Vanik amendment negatively affects Russian-U.S. trade and economic relations. What more can I say? Our bilateral trade with the U.S. comes to $32 billion. This is nothing really, zero.

Our trade with China comes to $83.5 billion, with Germany - $72 billion, but only $30 billion with the United States. What kind of result is this? The Jackson-Vanik amendment and other restrictions are still having their effect. This only hurts the U.S. economy, the Russian economy, and the global economy. I hope that this amendment, which discriminates against Russia on the U.S. market, will be abolished.

This is all the more so now that we have joined the World Trade Organization and keeping this amendment in place would only be detrimental to American companies operating on the Russian market, seeing that the preferences that other WTO member countries will have in Russia will not apply to the United States. The U.S. thus has an interest in abolishing this amendment, and I hope it will do so very soon.

As for the law connected to the Magnitsky tragedy, well, if they pass it they pass it. We do not think that this case requires such attention from Congress, but if restrictions are imposed on particular Russian citizens' right to enter the U.S., we will respond with similar restrictions on however many American citizens' right to enter the Russian Federation. I do not know who needs all this and why, but if this goes ahead, so be it. This is not our choice.

Question: In your view, is it possible the situation in the Eurozone will worsen significantly, and is this why Russia is still thinking about extending a loan to Cyprus? Also, after this G20 summit, how do you assess your European colleagues' efforts to overcome the crisis?

Vladimir Putin: I do not think there is a worsening trend in the Eurozone. On the contrary, I think we have grounds for expecting a change for the better, although the institutional causes for the crisis still need to be addressed.

As for the reasons for my optimism, I am positive about the approach the key Eurozone countries and the European Commission leadership, with which we have certainly had our differences, are taking to the problems at hand. For all the difficulty involved, it seems to me that Europe is trying to resolve the crisis by tackling the institutional problems and bringing discipline and order to their finances. Of course, discussion is still going on within the European Union, and as I understand it, a final decision has not been made yet, but I think this will happen soon.

Question: Concerning your meeting with Obama, did you have the impression that an improvement in relations with the United States could be on the horizon if Obama wins the presidential election, and is a solution for the missile defense issue in sight?

Vladimir Putin: I think the missile defense issue will not be resolved regardless of whether Obama wins the election or not. The United States has been working on its own missile defense system for many years now, and I do not see anything for now that could change the situation.

I think that real change in the situation would be possible only if the United States agreed to our proposal that Russia, the United States, and Europe all be equal participants in this process.

What this would mean in practice is that the three participants - Europe, the United States, and Russia - would build the system together, work together on assessing the threats, operate the system together, and decide together on its use. This would bring real change to the security situation in the world. But this does not in any way rule out reaching agreements on particular aspects of this overall joint work. I think this is possible.

Question: Yesterday I read your article in Mexican newspaper El Universal, in which you underscored the need to modernize and improve Russia's economy in order to attract foreign investment. Which person or politician do you see as a role model? You have praised (early twentieth century Russian) reformer Pyotr Stolypin very highly of late.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I value Stolypin's achievements and think he did a lot for Russia. But as the Russian saying goes, do not make idols. Russian history has its outstanding figures, and the history of Japan, Europe, the United States, also has many interesting people who have done much for their country or indeed for the whole world. There are thus many potential role models.

I will take the last question now because my colleague Barack Obama is about to arrive and you will be able to ask him your questions.

Question: You met with Barack Obama and also made some new acquaintances, in particular Prime Minister Noda (Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda). Who would you trust to go with on an intelligence gathering mission?

Vladimir Putin: No one, I left the intelligence services long ago and that page in my life is over now. I have new missions now. I will go with my colleagues to the next G20 summit in St. Petersburg in 2013. I also invite you all most warmly to take part. I wish you all the best. Goodbye.

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