7 June 2008. The EU-Russia Industrialists’ Round Table (IRT) Council members met on 7 June 2008 in the framework of the XII Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum. The meeting was co-chaired by the IRT Co-Chairmen - Mr Niels S. Andresen, CEO, Moller-Maersk, and Mr Anatoly Chubais, CEO, Unified Energy System of Russia. The heads of the companies represented in the IRT Council discussed the current situation and prospects for the EU-Russia trade and economic relationship.
The IRT Council welcomes the expected start of official negotiations on a new framework agreement, which the IRT and the EU and Russian business communities have consistently urged for more than two years. The IRT Council voices its hope that negotiations will begin at the next EU-Russia Summit in Khanty-Mansiysk (27 June 2008) and that both negotiating parties will ensure their swift progress. Recognising the compelling mutual benefits of a new EU-Russia framework agreement, business would like to see rapid movement towards a strategic partnership characterised by deeper economic integration as already envisaged in the context of the EU-Russia Common economic space.
Negotiations should help to establish the modern, well-functioning and non-discriminatory legal framework for trade, investment, economic, industrial and technological cooperation, that is vital for business activities in a more integrated EU-Russia economic area. Russian accession to the WTO will provide a sound basis for further economic integration. Therefore, the resolution of outstanding items related to Russian WTO accession, including the conclusion of remaining bilateral negotiations and the transposition of WTO commitments into national legislation, will unlock the door for the bilateral trade and investment negotiations.
Russia is the last major trading nation outside the rules-based, global trade system and its WTO membership will provide more stability for both Russian and EU companies. Negotiations should be accelerated so that Russia can accede to the WTO by the end of 2008.
The IRT proposes that the economic section of the EU-Russia framework agreement should present the following characteristics:
1. A broad and comprehensive free trade agreement based on all participants' WTO Membership but going beyond WTO requirements ("WTO+")
2. An open and non-discriminatory regime for mutual investment characterized by transparency and sustainability
3. Approximation of economic regulations and standards to cut red tape for business
Apart from the important role played by the trade and investment aspects of the negotiations, the IRT Council agreed that the creation of a common space for technology and innovation should be one of the key elements for a true strategic partnership between the EU and Russia. As this does not require Russia’s WTO Membership, the IRT Council agreed already now to formulate concrete proposals for future EU-Russia technological cooperation, which can serve as the basis for the emergence of a Common Area of Technology and Innovation. These recommendations will be presented to the EU-Russia Summit in autumn 2008, in the expectation that official agreement could be found rapidly thereafter.
The IRT is prepared to contribute its knowledge and expertise through appropriate consultation channels to the negotiating process, in order to give concrete support to the further enhancement of mutually beneficial economic cooperation.
The EU-Russia Industrialists’ Round table is an informal group of EU and Russian industrial and business leaders committed to the deepening of EU-Russia political and economic relations. Acting as a consultative body for the EU and the Russian authorities, and enjoying their full support, its establishment was endorsed by the July 1997 EU-Russia Summit. The co-chairmen for the Industrialists’ Round Table are CEO Mr Nils S. Andersen from A.P. Moller - Maersk and CEO of RAO UES of Russia Mr Anatoly Chubais.