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"Amazing Peoples ..."
Alexey Repik, Head of the Russian-Japanese Business Council at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, on the interaction of the two countries
Photo: Tass / VEF Photobank
The new year 2017 promises to be the year of a real breakthrough in Russian-Japanese relations. The leaders of the two countries - Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe - came close to signing the peace treaty for the first time in the 71 year since the end of the war between our states and launching joint economic activities in the Southern Kuriles. Which of these steps will precede the other - it is not yet clear. But the interlocutor of EastRussia, the president of Business Russia, the member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, the chairman of the board of directors of the group of companies R-Pharm and the chairman of the Russian-Japanese Business Council (RYaDS) at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation Alexei Repik believes that whatever the differences Between our countries on the "Kuril issue", it is necessary to build consistently and systematically with each other good-neighborly and mutually beneficial economic ties. And there, you see, and a positive political dialogue will improve.
- You are known as an active supporter of the development of economic relations with Japan. This is partly due to the status of the head of the Russian-Japanese Business Council (RNDS). But what kind of structure is it and how does it interact with "Business Russia"?
- RYADS is a body operating since 2004 as part of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Russia (CCI) - a voluntary non-state association of entrepreneurs. The Council was created on the initiative of Evgeny Maksimovich Primakov, who at that time headed the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The mission of the Council is the comprehensive development of trade, economic and business ties with Japan. RYADS partners include large Japanese business associations - RONIS-ROTOBO and Keidanren. Business Russia (DR) is a public organization that unites entrepreneurs from non-resource sectors of the economy. Since 2010, it is we, representatives of DR, who have been actively developing partnerships with the business community of Japan. In particular, we took part in organizing and holding Russian-Japanese investment forums. At one of them, which took place in Tokyo on March 16, 2014 - just on the day of the reunification of Crimea with Russia - we learned about the announcement by the United States and its allies of sanctions against the Russian Federation. Japan, as you know, joined the sanctions. Although formally.
Immediately at the forum, we asked a simple question to our friends from the Land of the Rising Sun: "Do you think that the complication of political relations is intended to freeze our dialogue in the field of business and economy?" The head of the Japanese government, Shinzo Abe, himself admitted that no. He sent a signal to all business representatives in his country to develop business ties with Russia. And we all began to work according to the principle: no matter what happens on the political front, economic cooperation between our countries should not suffer from this. It was in this context that our relations with our Pacific neighbor developed in the second half of 2014. By the end of the year, members of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its president, Sergei Nikolaevich Katyrin, noted the positive role of Delovaya Rossiya in this process. Therefore, at the December re-election of the RYADS chairman, my candidacy was also nominated (as a representative of "DR"). As a result of the voting, I became the head of the RYDS.
- And what are the tasks facing the Council today?
- First of all, the task is to multiply the number of projects and entrepreneurs seeking cooperation on both sides. We want not only to increase the level of interaction, but to expand it. Today, the annual trade turnover between Russia and Japan barely exceeds $ 16 billion. While between the United States and Japan - more than 200 billion dollars, and between China and Japan - more than 300 billion. At the same time, Japan is one of our closest neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region: only an hour fly from Vladivostok. With such weak partnerships with each other, both Russia and Japan are missing out on great economic benefits. RYADS, first of all, represents the interests of Russian companies that have already entered or are just wishing to enter the Japanese market. Having started work, we very quickly received feedback from Japanese entrepreneurs and, in fact, continue to develop our contacts to this day. The result of this work was partly manifested in the extent to which Japanese business circles participated in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2015 and 2016. Both times the Forum program was opened - with our assistance - with a dialogue with Japanese business.
Japan became the most representative participant (except for China) at the 2016 Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. The delegation from the Land of the Rising Sun was headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself. At the forum, businessmen of both countries signed about 20 investment agreements worth $ 1,3 billion. Before the St. Petersburg and Eastern Forums of last year, there was, as you know, the May meeting of the leaders of the two countries in Sochi. The Japanese prime minister outlined eight points on the development of bilateral relations. All of them, in one way or another, represent the result of that colossal work to find points of economic contact, in which our government, and business, and the RYDS participated - from the Russian side. The culmination of 2016 was the December visit to Tokyo of our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. During the visit, more than 60 agreements were signed with the volume of declared Japanese investments of $ 2,5 billion.
EastRussia help. Alexey Repik, 37 years old. Graduated from the Higher School of Economics State University in 2003. Since 1995 he has been working in the field of healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Founder of the Russian pharmaceutical group R-Pharm. Since 2014, Alexey Repik has headed the Delovaya Rossiya public organization, which unites representatives of the non-resource business, and the Russian-Japanese Business Council at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
- Remind, please, what are the main areas of cooperation between Russia and Japan in question?
- This is the development of partnerships in the existing oil and gas projects "Sakhalin-1" and "Sakhalin-2", modernization of transport and urban infrastructure in the Russian Far East with the use of Japanese technologies, cooperation in fisheries, tourism, medicine, biotechnology, nuclear Energy, joint development of agricultural lands in the Far East and a number of others.
- But will the Japanese agree to the joint economic development of the South Kuriles and to assist us in non-resource projects until Russia agrees to give them the islands - Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and the island group of Habomai?
- I think they will. Yes, at the official political level, they insist that the signing of a peace treaty between our countries is possible only if the said islands are transferred to Japan, which Russia got after the Second World War. But, first, Japan benefits from economic cooperation with Russia, and the local elite is well aware of this. Secondly, our president, even during the second Eastern Economic Forum in September last year, quite simply and clearly outlined the political position of Russia: "We do not trade our territories ...". Nevertheless, the Japanese side did not abandon plans for economic cooperation with our country.
In December of last year, Shinzo Abe and Vladimir Putin met in Tokyo, and on February XNUMX of this year, Russian-Japanese consultations were held in Moscow at the level of the Foreign Ministries of the two countries. As a result, an agreement was reached to hold the first round of bilateral consultations on joint economic development of the South Kuril Islands in Tokyo in March. And at the end of April, Shinzo Abe is scheduled to visit Moscow. But what is the benefit for the Japanese to invest in the construction of high-tech "smart cities" in our sparsely populated Far East or in the modernization of local transport infrastructure? Not everything is measured by explicit financial gain. There is an opportunity to declare yourself to the world and stake out the status of pioneers in the implementation of the most daring futuristic projects in the harsh conditions of the Far East. Such fame is worth a lot and guarantees Japanese firms the most profitable contracts on the international level. Investments in our port structure, for example, are justified by the fact that the export of the same hydrocarbons from Russia to Japan is being optimized. In addition, the addressee of Japanese investments is not only the Russian Far East, but also other regions of Russia.
"By our side, the Japanese are promised joint economic management in the Kuriles within the framework of the Russian legislative framework. Will the Japanese government agree to this?
Special regimes - priority development territories (TOR) and the free port of Vladivostok (FPV) - actively introduced in the Far East by the Russian government and promoted personally by Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Petrovich Trutnev - go beyond the usual Russian legislation. Special legal regimes applied. They are geared towards providing very favorable conditions to foreign (although not only) investors. Our Japanese friends, as far as I can judge from communication with them, share the opinion that TOPs and FPVs are comfortable conditions for doing business. I think the best option for cooperation in a number of industries would be joint ventures operating as residents of ASEZs or FPVs.
- You are a successful Russian entrepreneur involved in a large pharmaceutical business. What is the cooperation between Russia and Japan in this area?
- As for the group of companies, of which I am the founder, we are talking about direct Japanese investments. That is, the Japanese partner company acquires part of the shares of our holding. This will help us enter the Japanese pharmaceutical market (a very closed one, by the way) plus differentiate our business in Russia by selling not only drugs and medicines, but also the sale of Japanese medical equipment under a franchise scheme. For my part, I am considering the possibility of investing in such a sector of the Japanese economy as robotics. In general, I am optimistic about the prospects for a Russian-Japanese partnership on an equal footing in the field of high technologies. Contrary to the popular myth, there is no fatal lag between Russia and Japan in a number of science-intensive industries. And if it does exist somewhere, it is not due to some of our insolvency, but simply to the fact that we had no reason and motive to develop this sector. In a number of areas, we even surpass our southeastern neighbor. For example, in chemical production we are inferior to Japan, and in biotechnology we are ahead. In the automotive industry, we are lagging behind, and in the nuclear power industry, on the contrary. And it is also very important not to forget that the Japanese made many of their technological breakthroughs on the basis of studying Soviet and Russian scientific and technical thought. You know, I suspect that the main resource that Japanese business in Russia is guided by is people. Say what you like, but our human capital - intellectually and professionally - is of a very high quality.
- That's just getting old steadily. The demographic situation in Russia, as well as in Japan, is by no means rosy.
- Yes. And this is one more reason for more dense cooperation between our countries in the field of medicine and high technologies. Comfortable habitat and good health very much contribute to an increase in life expectancy.
- Is there a chance for Russian small businesses in the Far East to build effective relationships with "kids" from a neighboring country?
- This is what we should strive for! In the minds of many, Japan is a country crammed with ultra-modern electronic technology, super-cars, smart homes, robots and other high-tech attributes. This is true. But, among other things, Japan is also diverse, as far as one can imagine, food, that is, farming, fishing, restaurant business. All this is often presented by small firms with a turnover of up to a million dollars a year. We also have a lot of such enterprises in the Far East and across Russia as a whole. There are also examples of fruitful cooperation: one entrepreneur from Primorye successfully sells food and drinks made according to old Russian recipes in Japanese supermarkets. And the other set up supplies of Russian honey to the Land of the Rising Sun. We (RYADS, "Business Russia"), in the framework of our consultations and meetings with Japanese business associations, pay special attention to the small and medium-sized business sector. And this topic is also one of the main ones on the agenda of the intergovernmental dialogue.
- During the time that you are working closely with Japan, you, besides business partners, have friends in this country?
- Sure. It is generally accepted that all Japanese are completely introverts, as well as adherents of strict rules and ceremonies. Perhaps this is so. But these people have a very rich spiritual world. And they - like no one else - know how to be friends and keep their word. You know, we and the Japanese are equally different from Europeans and Americans in that we are more romantic. But among the Japanese, romance is often hidden behind external restraint. In our country, it is not customary to be ashamed of emotions. But, if the Japanese recognize you as a friend, you become truly theirs for them. And you can already push aside the extra officialdom. You can even be late for a meeting - forgive. Amazing people. Moreover, they consider us the same. I am sure that our future is friendship, cooperation, good neighborliness.