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Ambassador Laurie Bristow opening speech at roundtable during SPIEF 2016
Ambassador Laurie Bristow calls on British companies to realise opportunities in Russia whilst working within the framework of EU sanctions.
Congratulations to RBCC on 100 years. I can top that. This year sees the 450th anniversary of the first diplomatic relations between our countries. So my job has been filled for the last 450 years.
Those two dates remind us that our relations are for the long term, and we should focus on the long-term.
Despite the political difficulties, UK continues to work with Russia on business, in culture, in education and in science.
Let me list some examples
UK companies continue to invest in Russia. Three weeks ago I was at press conference announcing that VIIV healthcare a subsidiary of GSK will produce anti-AIDS vaccines in Russia. That’s a sign of the long-term commitment of UK business. But also of the importance of our engagement to social reform. 30% of the 1.3m people who are HIV positive in Russia do not have access to the right drugs; globally two thirds of adults and three quarters of children are not on treatment (WHO, 2014).
I should also mention for fairness sake the work done by AstraZeneca with Yandex on big data.
We are also encouraging Russian companies to invest in the UK. UKTI is currently supporting over 100 Russian investors seeking to establish a presence in the UK. A number of projects have landed in the past year which will bring over £600m into the British economy and create more than 350 new jobs in the UK over the next 3 years.
Russians continue to study in the UK – there are around 3600 students at our universities. The British Council’s UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature is working with the Russian government’s aspiration to improve knowledge of the English language. Education Minister Livanov was in London in January for a British Council conference.
This is a golden age of co-operation between UK and Russian museums. Recently I was at the opening of the Cosmonauts exhibition in Moscow. This exhibition honouring the Soviet Space programme began in London and Deputy Prime Minister Golodets attended the opening. We’ve also seen the recent exchange of paintings between the National Portrait Gallery and the State Tretyakov Gallery and only three weeks ago I met the Scottish architects who designed the new Impressionist Museum in Moscow.
Of course it’s difficult. UK trade is down around 40%, mostly down to the fall of the Rouble. We expect our companies to operate within EU sanctions and we do need to look carefully at some investment decisions.
There are lots of things that Russia needs to do to improve the business climate, notably to create the conditions for growth.
But we are actively supporting our companies. We support what the Chamber does, and value their work as an institution that acts as a bridge between the UK and Russia.
We are also supporting contacts between institutions and professional bodies. It is very important that City UK continues to work with the Moscow Finance Centre – the next meeting is in July. We also support work by the Law Society.
We at the Embassy are looking for new ways to work; so if you are in the audience and have ideas, do let us know.