Centenary of the Russian-British trade relations

The 100th anniversary of the first Soviet-British trade agreement is a memorable date. Its conclusion marked a milestone in the rich history of the Russian-British bilateral relations. This centenary is also a good reason for all of us to take a positive look at the prospects of our bilateral ties, based on the existing experience.

Back in 1921, the agreement had great importance for both sides. For the new authorities in Moscow, it meant the first official recognition by a Western state and marked the end of the foreign trade blockade. In their turn, many British manufacturers, exporters and importers were saved from a downfall during the post-war economic crisis thanks to the development of the UK-Russia trade relations.

The agreement reflects mutual respect and signifies the victory of common sense over political stereotypes. In its text we can find renunciation of any “hostile actions or activities”, removal of barriers to trade and financial transactions as well as exchange of full-fledged trade missions. The good will allowed to look beyond ideological attitudes and to significantly ease tensions in the both nations’ interests.

This example is particularly instructive now that, unfortunately, difficulties have risen again in the Russia-UK relations. And this is despite the fact that our countries share basic values of humanism, democracy, market economy, rule of law, human rights and sustainable development.

The real life as well as the interests of our both countries dictate a mutually constructive approach to the bilateral relations. Amid the crises of recent years, the need to coordinate and join efforts, expand trade and investment ties, exchange knowledge and technology has become more evident than ever. This represents a certain similarity with 1920s.

These very considerations are guiding the business community. Russian and British companies continue active cooperation. The UK-Russia trade has been growing steadily along with the mutual cumulative investments.

It is particularly pleasant to see that, despite the coronavirus pandemic and other difficulties, major Russo-British projects have been launched in the recent two years. These include the cooperation between the «Roscosmos» space agency and «OneWeb» communications company, «AstraZeneca» and «GlaxoSmithKline» pharmaceutical production lines in Russia, recycling equipment supplies by «Rosatom» to the British enterprise «Riverside».

Russia has a lot to offer to British and other partners for the mutually beneficial exchange. There are not only natural resources but also most advanced technologies, high-value-added products, unique knowledge in various fields. The examples include nuclear and hydrogen energy, metallurgy and chemistry, satellite navigation, space, aircraft and shipbuilding, healthcare innovations, fundamental and academic science.

The UK is interesting to us as one of the leading medications developer, engine producer, electronics and robotics manufacturer, a global center of fintech and tech startups, host of many science centers. Low-carbon energy and green finance could be other promising fields for cooperation. This is particularly important as we approach the landmark COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

The success of our two countries in developing coronavirus vaccines has taken on particular significance. The Russian “Sputnik V” has proved its utmost efficiency. The enormous global demand for such medical products opens up a way to broader cooperation. One could think about vaccine co-production and combination as well as joint actions to help developing countries in the fight against the pandemic.

Against the backdrop of the Brexit, COVID-19 and other international challenges, Russia and the UK’s objective national interests create a solid basis for cooperation.

Naturally, Russia will start rapprochement only on the basis of equality and mutual respect. We are ready to discuss with the UK any issues in an honest and open dialogue, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including the UN and the WTO. No matter how our political dialogue develops, the expansion of mutually beneficial economic, cultural and humanitarian exchanges must continue.

We hope that this joint online conference helps to strengthen the spirit of healthy pragmatism in our bilateral relations – a good example once shown with the first Soviet-British trade agreement.

Source: The Embassy of the Russian Federation to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Andrei Kelin
Andrei Kelin
Andrei Kelin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, RIAC Member