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Remarks to the U.S.-Russia Business Council

Reuben Jeffery, Under Secretary
Washington, DC
April 29, 2008

Thank you for that kind introduction, Gene [Lawson]. And thank you and the USRBC staff for the invaluable work you do to strengthen commercial ties between Russia and the United States.

As we discussed with Minister Denisov, it is useful to recall that commercial relations between the U.S. and Russia are not new.

Our diplomatic relations go back over two centuries. John Quincy Adams – who was later to become the sixth U.S. President – was the first U.S. envoy in Russia, and it was during his time in St. Petersburg that he and Czar Alexander realized the mutual interests our countries had in expanding commercial ties, especially in shipping and trade in the Pacific.

By that time, people in North America and Russia were already interacting quite a bit. The fur trade had been active in the Pacific Northwest, and we cooperated on shipbuilding and railroads later that century.

Today, people to people contacts between our nations are strong, and it is being led by the companies represented in this room. Across an entire range of areas – from science and technology to the arts, U.S. Russia ties are strong.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for being such effective private sector ambassadors, particularly for the partnerships you have forged to build a stronger market economy, and improve the rule of law and transparency.

Our respective leaders are cognizant of the positive momentum economic ties can have on the overall US-Russia relationship.

Earlier this month, President Putin hosted President Bush for meetings in Sochi, Russia. During their visit, they set forth a new framework to strengthen cooperation between the United States and Russia.

The U.S.-Russia Strategic Framework Declaration, as it is called, provides a forum for cooperation between the United States and Russia in key areas of common interest, including enhancing security, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, combating global terrorism, and advancing economic cooperation.

Yesterday, as many of you are aware, we held the inaugural session of the economic dialogue at the State Department. Secretary Rice addressed the participants, and noted that few things are more important to the elected leaders in our countries than ensuring that government delivers to its people on the economic front.

The vision for this dialogue is simple. Russia and the United States stand to benefit from enhanced economic cooperation.

Fortunately, this comes at a time of when there is keen interest in both countries of deepening and expanding bilateral trade and investment.

Yesterday's session began with an overview of the U.S. economy.

This was followed by discussions on trade and investment, including presentations on CFIUS and the Russian Strategic Sectors law.

In the afternoon, we covered various energy-related topics, including the importance of investing in energy efficient technologies and renewables.

A key part of the Economic Dialogue will be improving business to business contacts. Our colleagues at the Department of Commerce and the National Security Council will take the lead in working with their Russian counterparts to reach agreement on a concept for a new private sector business-to-business dialogue.

We hope to establish this dialogue in the near future, and we will be looking to you for your support.

We have an opportunity to expand and strengthen the economic relationship between our countries. The impetus for this has come from President Bush and President Putin, but the day to day work will be in the hands of you in this room, and your counterparts in Russia.

Our economic ties are strong, but the potential is even greater. We look forward to working with you, and our colleagues in Russia to help realize this potential, and to build a more prosperous future for both our countries.

With that, let me turn it over to my colleague, Minister Denisov.

Thank you.



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