Address by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to the participants of the BRICS Business Forum

Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. Photo: Supplied

Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. Photo: Supplied

Published Aug 23, 2023


Dear President Ramaphosa,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

I am pleased to greet government and business representatives, experts and industry specialists who have gathered for this meeting of the BRICS Business Forum.

I would like to note that holding such business forums on a regular basis, along with the systemic work of the BRICS Business Council, which brings together top businessmen and heads of major companies of the five countries, plays an immense practical role in promoting mutual trade and investments, enhancing co-operation ties and expanding direct dialogue among business communities – and thus effectively contributes to accelerated socio-economic growth of our states and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is important that this Forum focuses on such pressing issues as the post-pandemic economic recovery of the BRICS states, improvement of citizens' well-being, industrial modernization, development of efficient transport and logistics chains, and stimulation of equitable technology transfers.

These challenging and complex tasks have to be dealt with amidst the increasing volatility in stock, currency, energy and food markets, coupled with strong inflationary pressures stemming from, inter alia, the irresponsible large-scale money creation by a number of countries seeking to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, which has led to the accumulation of private and public debt.

The international economic situation is also seriously affected by the illegitimate sanctions practice and illegal freezing of assets of sovereign states, which essentially amounts to the trampling upon all the basic norms and rules of free trade and economic life – norms and rules that not so long ago seemed immutable.

Resource shortages, increased inequality, rising unemployment, and aggravation of other chronic problems of the world economy are the direct consequences. Prices for food, basic agricultural products and crops have skyrocketed. And it is the most vulnerable, poor countries that are hit hardest.

Importantly, in these circumstances, the BRICS states have stepped up their interaction, and our joint work to ensure economic growth and sustainable development brings concrete, tangible results. More and more joint projects are launched. Mutual trade is growing, industry contacts are expanding.

Above all, our cooperation is based on the principles of equality, partner support, and respect for each other's interests. And that is what lies at the core of our Association's forward-looking strategic course – the course that reflects the aspirations of the larger part of the international community, the so-called Global Majority.

The figures speak for themselves. Over the last decade, mutual investments among BRICS states have increased six-fold. Their overall investments in global economy have doubled, and their total exports have reached 20 per cent of the world exports.

As for Russia, the trade volume with our BRICS partners has increased by 40.5 per cent, reaching a record 230, more than 230 billion. In the first half of this year it grew by 35.6 per cent, as compared with the same period in 2022, to reach USD 134.7 billion.

I would also like to point out that the share of the BRICS countries, with their population totalling more than three billion people, now accounts for nearly 26 per cent of the global GDP; our five countries are ahead of the G7 in terms of purchasing power parity (with 31.5 per cent against 30 per cent forecast for 2023).

The objective and irreversible process of the de-dollarization of our economic ties is gaining pace. We are working to fine-tune effective mechanisms for mutual settlements and monetary and financial control. As a result, the share of US dollar export and import operations within BRICS is declining: last year it stood at only 28.7 per cent.

In fact, this summit is to discuss in detail the entire range of issues related to the transition to national currencies in all areas of economic cooperation between our five nations. The New BRICS Development Bank, which has already become a credible alternative to existing Western development institutions, has a great role to play in these efforts.

It is only natural that enhancing connectivity and creating new resilient transport routes have become a shared priority in cooperation between our five countries. In this context, the BRICS Business Council's initiative to elaborate modern intermodal logistics solutions and develop railway transport corridors is of particular importance.

For its part, Russia actively works to redirect its traffic and logistics flows to reliable foreign partners, including in BRICS states. Our flagship projects include the Northern Sea Route and the new International NorthSouth Transport Corridor.

These two major transport routes aim to provide the shortest and most cost-effective trade routes to link major industrial, agricultural and energy hubs with consumer markets.

With regard to the Northern Sea Route, I would like to emphasize that Russia has already adopted and launched a large-scale, multi-year plan to develop its infrastructure. We intend to build fuel terminals, hub ports to ensure connections with road and rail transport. The icebreaking fleet is expanding, first of all by commissioning nuclear-powered vessels that have no analogues in the world.

As for the NorthSouth Transport Corridor, it will connect Russian ports of the northern seas and the Baltic with offshore terminals in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, thereby providing opportunities to increase cargo transportation between Eurasian and African countries. Besides, this will certainly give impetus to developing new industrial, trade and logistics facilities along the route.

Russia stands for greater cooperation within the BRICS on reliable and uninterrupted supplies of energy and food resources to the world markets. We are consistently increasing supplies of fuel, agricultural products and fertilizers to countries in the Global South and making a significant contribution to strengthening global food and energy security, addressing acute humanitarian issues and fighting hunger and poverty in countries in need.

All these issues, in particular, were discussed in depth at the recent RussiaAfrica Summit. For example, last year trade in agricultural products between Russia and African states grew by 10 percent and amounted to 6.7 billion US dollars. And in January-June this year, it increased by another record 60 per cent. Our country is and will remain a responsible supplier of food to the African continent.

Russian grain exports to Africa amounted to 11.5 million tons in 2022 and almost 10 million tons in the first six months of 2023.This is despite the unlawful sanctions imposed on us that seriously hinder the export of Russian food products and complicate transport logistics, insurance and bank payments.

Russia is being deliberately obstructed in the supply of grain and fertilizers abroad and at the same time we are hypocritically blamed for the current crisis situation on the world market. This has been clearly seen in the implementation of the so-called "grain deal" concluded with the participation of the UN Secretariat and initially aimed at ensuring global food security, reducing the threat of hunger and providing aid to the poorest countries.

We have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that in a year under the deal, a total of 32.8 million tons of cargo has been exported from Ukraine. Of which over 70 per cent has reached high- and upper-middle-income countries, including the European Union. And only about three percent have gone to the least developed countries – that is, less than one million tons.

None of the terms of the so-called deal concerning the lifting of sanctions imposed on Russian exports of grain and fertilizers to world markets have been fulfilled. Obligations to Russia in this regard have been simply ignored. Even our free transfer of mineral fertilizers blocked in European ports has been obstructed. In fact, this is a purely humanitarian campaign that should not in principle be subject to any sanctions.

With these facts in mind, since July 18 we have refused to further extend the so-called deal. And we will be ready to get back to it, but to get back only if all obligations to the Russian side are truly fulfilled.

I have repeatedly said that our country has the capacity to replace Ukrainian grain, both commercially and as free aid to needy countries, especially since our harvest is again expected to be perfect this year. As a first step, we have decided to gratuitously provide six African countries with 2550 thousand tons of grain each with free delivery of these cargoes. The negotiations with partners are drawing to an end.

Among the priority lines of interaction appears also the further coordination of the approaches of the BRICS participants on the subject of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. This is an important part of the overall economic agenda of the Group of Five, which implies the assistance to the widest circles of citizens involved in business regarding the issues of administrative and tax regulation, digitalization, electronic commerce, and participation in the value chains.

I would note that thanks to the state support programmes the entrepreneurs from the BRICS countries successfully adapt to the constantly changing situation in the global markets. They find new partners and new sales channels, attract additional funding and use more actively modern technologies.

It is equally significant to continue to develop cooperation within the BRICS in the field of decarbonisation of economy, reduction of man-induced impact on the nature and adaptation to the changing climate. Russia is ready to work jointly to promote more balanced approaches to the climate change in the international arena.

Our country is consistently implementing the National Low-Carbon Development Strategy. We plan to reach the carbon neutrality of the Russian economy not later than 2060, including through the introduction of technological innovations, modernization of infrastructure for access to affordable and clean energy, conservation of ecosystems on land and sea. We believe, moreover, that the implementation of the climate goals can be facilitated by a variety of technologies, including those that have been in use for a long time already, such as nuclear generation, hydropower and gas motor fuel.

To sum it up, I would like to reiterate that the multifaceted partnership and cooperation within the BRICS not only makes a significant contribution to ensuring the sustainable growth of our states but also generally promotes the invigoration of the situation in the global economy and successful achievement of the global development goals and targets set by the United Nations - to fight poverty, expand people's access to quality healthcare, eradicate hunger and improve food security.

Therefore, I am confident that the BRICS Business Forum and Business Council will continue their creative work aimed at the improvement of contacts within the entrepreneurial circles of the countries of the Group of Five and joint implementation of mutually beneficial projects.

In conclusion, I would like to invite the representatives of the business circles of your countries to come to the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia that will take place on 10-13 September in the city of Vladivostok, where, by tradition, there will be discussions of issues that are of interest, including to the business community of the BRICS countries.

President of the Russian Federation

Vladimir Putin

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.