The White House

Office of the Vice President

Remarks by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. at a Roundtable Discussion with American and Russian Business Leaders

Moscow School of Management Skolkovo
Moscow, Russia

3:20 P.M. (Local)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Deputy Prime Minister.  I can assure you our support is real.  What you're being told by our European friends and others is true.  We are working very hard to make WTO a reality for Russia and for us.  It's very much in our interest as it is in Russia's.

I want to thank you all for being here and giving me the opportunity to have a chance to have a conversation with you.  Resetting our relationships with Russia has in the view of the President and my view, as well, provided the momentum for some improved cooperation on a whole range -- a whole range of issues including arms control and nuclear proliferation, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea.  But one area which we need to do more -- excuse me, I have a cold -- one area which we have to do more is to fully realize the potential -- and there's real potential -- in our relationship which lies in bilateral trade and investment. 

And the primary purpose of my visit is to explore how we can resolve the remaining challenges in our economic relationship -- because they must be resolved.  To begin with -- I'll say it again -- the United States strongly supports Russia's accession to the WTO.  And we are working with Russian negotiators in Geneva to move this process forward.  And I think we're making real progress.  We're making real progress on bilateral issues that have caused friction in the past such as agricultural trade and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

And our administration also strongly supports -- I want to make this clear -- strongly supports the lifting of Jackson-Vanik.  And we are aware of the benefits that will flow to U.S. companies from a freer and more open trade regime between the United States and Russia and quite frankly worldwide.  But we also know -- we've often told Russian leaders that investors and companies are looking not just for better trade policies but for assurances that the legal system that exists in each of the countries in which they wish to invest, the legal system treats them fairly and acts on their concerns swiftly.

That is why we're working with you, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, and your colleagues to improve the investment climate, to promote the rule of law and to tackle some endemic corruption.  The Bilateral Presidential Commission is an important venue for our intergovernmental efforts.  And we are using it to develop a more adept cadre of managers on both sides of the Atlantic, to improve our procurement systems, and to address issues that you and your colleagues have raised such as the difficulty of obtaining visas.

But beyond negotiations between our governments, we're also relying heavily quite frankly on the emerging connections that all of you around this table represent between Russian and American business leaders and leaders in civil society.

Contacts among citizens are critical, almost as critical as the contacts between our governments, in fostering greater understanding and building our societies together.

And finally, I want you to know that we fully support President Medvedev's vision of a nation powered by innovation and human capital, and that we have a deep respect -- a deep respect -- for the pool of talent and the passion of the Russian people.  Indeed, we share a similar vision for our own nation.

So I want to thank you all for being here, and I'd like to open this for discussion.  And maybe with your permission, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, we obviously want to see this new venture succeed.  It's an impressive facility, and with a great deal of promise.  And I look forward -- I've been visiting Russia since 1973, I look forward to come back when this a rival of Silicon Valley.  It would benefit all of us were that occur.

And it's an impressive building, but one of the questions that I think we -- I'd like to ask all you business leaders, particularly you Russian CEOs, is how can we help.  How can we help?  How can each of our governments help?

We understand the free enterprise system is the engine that's going to ultimately create -- make this a success, but we also know from our own experience in Silicon Valley that government can either be an impediment or it can be a help.  I would argue that Stanford University wasn't an impediment.  I would argue that the hundred of billions -- millions of dollars we invested in Stanford wasn't an impediment.  And so the question is what can we do to help.

And my observation -- and I have a bad habit of being straightforward -- my observation is if a company is big enough and successful enough and has deep enough pockets, it can weather the difficult terrain that sometimes exists in doing business here and in other places.

But the SMEs -- the capricious nature of the system, sometimes is viewed as a real impediment to the small- and medium-sized enterprises.  So I hope we can have an open discussion about how each of our governments can be a positive influence in realizing what again is in the mutual self-interest of both our countries, and that is the success of this venture and the growing success and relationship between American and Russian businesses and enterprises.

So again, I thank you all very, very much for being here.

END
3:27 P.M. (Local)

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