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Moscow Times
November 16, 2009
Medvedev Offers APEC Few Specifics
By Alex Anishyuk

President Dmitry Medvedev addressed the world community Saturday with a call for cooperation and coordination in handling the pullout from economic stimulus measures, but he took a wait-and-see approach on specifics.

Speaking in Singapore at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Medvedev largely echoed comments from his Thursday state-of-the-nation address and an article that he published the following day in The Economist.

But the speech was noteworthy for its lack of criticism of the United States, which has been a constant subtext of his economic addresses since last year. The address also came a day before bilateral talks with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the APEC summit (Story, Page 2).

“It’s early to talk about the recovery of the world economy. Most likely, it’s still adapting to the new conditions,” Medvedev said in his address to APEC delegates, according to a transcript on the Kremlin web site. “So what comes next? If we’re going to be entirely open about it ­ despite the enormous number of forecasts, research papers and expert predictions ­ no one knows for sure.”

He said countries must coordinate their exits from anti-crisis measures to avoid “premature or late actions,” agreeing with other APEC leaders that stimulus programs should be folded only when the world recovery becomes steady.

“We only need to define the period [when this should be done], and this will probably be the most difficult thing to do,” he said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s government has injected an estimated 2.5 trillion rubles ($86.6 billion) in fiscal stimulus to soften the impact of the global recession on Russia’s commodity-reliant economy. At a Group of 20 summit in Scotland earlier this month, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said it was time to start discussing a winding down of the bailout measures, but he also refrained from setting specific timelines.

International Monetary Fund ­managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said Saturday that the recovery was “fragile and sluggish.”

The pace of recovery will be different from country to country, and there might be “no one-size-fits-all solution,” he said.

“An early withdrawal may cause irreparable damage,” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said.

The Russian economy shrank 8.9 percent in the third quarter, year on year, although that was an improvement from the record 10.9 percent drop in the second quarter. The Economic Development Ministry expects a full-year fall of 8.5 percent for 2009. But the ministry may revise its growth forecast for next year to 3 percent growth, from 1.6 percent now, Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach said Friday.

Speaking ahead of a meeting between Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kremlin foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko said Russia would learn from China, a country of 1.3 billion people, about how to develop its economy during the recession.

China managed 8.9 percent growth in the third-quarter and is on target to hit at least 8 percent for the year.

“We need to discuss this with China because the crisis has not affected them as badly as Russia or some other economies,” Prikhodko said. “Moreover, they used the opportunity to build up some of their economic indicators.”

In past addresses to global economic leaders, Medvedev has blamed overreliance on the dollar and Washington’s considerable clout in bodies such as the IMF for the extent of the economic crisis. On Saturday, he significantly toned down those criticisms.

“The coordination of national macroeconomic policies gets a special meaning in this situation, and specifically the control and monitoring over the state of the financial systems of individual countries and the world economy as a whole” he said. “Moreover, it should be [based on] a competent and impartial analysis of the situation.”

In his article for The Economist, titled “Russia’s Role in Turbulent Times,” Medvedev previewed his APEC speech and pledged to make sure that Russia remains a reliable supplier of raw materials, despite its goal of a more diverse economy.

“I expect 2010 to be a turbulent year, financially and economically, both for Russia and the world: the depth of the current crisis, and the complexity of the problems that it has revealed, mean a protracted period of stabilization and recovery,” he wrote.

“The green-shoots talk will be heard now and again, with many countries becoming the unexpected leaders of economic growth. Yet it is the quality of recovery that matters, not the pace,” he wrote. “In the course of 2010, we will continue our efforts to modernize the economy, encouraging innovation and diversification.

“As such, we will remain dependent on the economic well-being of our customers and countries that provide transit services for Russia’s exports,” Medvedev said in the article. “This is why Russia will continue its efforts to promote a legally binding agreement on international energy cooperation.”

Medvedev promised to continue international dialogue next year, to “reduce tensions and increase trust.”

In the article, Medvedev also stressed Russia’s commitment to enter the World Trade Organization. The talks have been under way since 1994.

APEC leaders said in a joint statement following the summit that they would “seek to conclude the Doha Round in 2010,” referring to the long-delayed next round of WTO talks.

Russia joined APEC in 1998 and will host a 2012 summit on Russky Island, off the coast of Vladivostok.

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