Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, respected colleagues – Russian and Thai – it gives me great pleasure to welcome you here! I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet you.
Our economic cooperation has, in effect, never been interrupted. Trade turnover in recent years, despite the crisis and all sorts of global economic problems (and our economies, too, are exposed to pressure, in one way or another), has also been growing.
Last year, trade turnover, in our estimate, was $4 billion, and in our Thai partners' estimate, $5 billion (because they count somewhat differently, using statistics involving supplies of a number of goods via third countries).
We believe – and I said this to the prime minister earlier today – that we have every chance to increase this indicator to $10 billion through various areas, be it the fuel and energy sectors, agriculture, cooperation in the defence and technology sectors, new technologies or medicine. The potential of the aircraft- and helicopter-building industry and motor industry has not yet been tapped to the full.
Naturally, we are counting on further growth in such an important area of our cooperation as tourism. Thailand is among the most attractive countries for tourists – definitely, for our citizens. Last year, 1.6 million citizens of our country, Russians, visited your country.
However, it is important to understand that competition for tourists is becoming more intense, both for internal and external reasons.
In late March, a new law came into force that establishes special legal arrangements for entrepreneurs working in certain areas. They are called "priority development areas". These will include a simplified land acquisition procedure, tax breaks and other preferences, and the possibility of applying free economic zone customs regulations, and it will be easier to hire qualified foreign personnel there. Therefore, there are people responsible for this on the official team that is accompanying me during this visit.
Today is quite an opportune time for entering the Russian market, especially for companies producing food and consumer goods. There are several reasons for this, including the launch of the Eurasian Economic Union. It is a big market. It may be recalled that it now includes a total of five countries, with a population of about 180 million.
Some of our colleagues present here today are already involved in the development of Russian agriculture and related industries, in particular the CP Group holding. We also know about the plans of another Thai company, Sutech Engineering, to build a sugar refinery in the Far East.
We have a joint Russian-Thai commission on bilateral cooperation. Its next plenary session will be held in the summer in Russia. I am confident that today's meetings will give the commission co-chairs something to add to the session agenda. The Russian section of our commission is led by Denis Manturov, the Minister of Industry and Trade. He is also present at this meeting.
Generally, I would like to emphasize that we are interested in diversifying our trade with Thailand and expanding the export of high-tech products, and, as a matter of fact, international cooperation in this segment is a key condition for its development. We are open to expanding ties with Thailand, other ASEAN states and the Asia Pacific region as a whole.
I would like to close by wishing you all good projects and good achievements this year. Also, accept my best wishes ahead of the traditional Thai New Year. And I hope that we will still have plenty of opportunities to discuss prospects for our work.
The next statement was delivered by Mr. Saltanov, Vice President of Russian Railways, which is one of the largest companies in Russia, it manages 900 thousand employees and owning 85 thousand kilometers of railways/ He has already held talks on the issue of entering the Thai infrastructure construction market. He highlighted the opportunities for participation of Russian companies in projects to modernize the Railways of Thailand, as well as the implementation of joint projects in third countries.