Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged U.S. business representatives to work with President Donald Trump's administration to improve relations between the two countries.
Putin made the comments at an event called Business Dialogue Russia-USA on the sidelines of the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on June 2 shortly before he addressed a plenary session of the annual gathering.
Putin asked the U.S. business leaders present to "help us restore a normal political dialogue."
He stated that Moscow is working to "normalize" bilateral relations, which reached a low ebb under former U.S. President Barack Obama over issues including Russia's 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, Moscow's active support and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine, and disagreements over the conflict in Syria.
Putin said that "solid trade and investment relations" between Russia and the United States form a crucial "insurance net against the shifting political environment."
In his speech to the plenary session, during a panel moderated by U.S. journalist Megyn Kelly, Putin called for numerous reforms aimed at increasing Russia's competitiveness and attractiveness for investors. He spoke a day after his longtime former financeminister, Aleksei Kudrin, said the state's dominance of the economy was "killing the entrepreneurial spirit."
Putin said "a package of judicial-system improvement proposals" was under discussion, although he did not provide details. He called for an extension of the current profit-tax benefit beyond 2025 in order to make a more stable investment environment.
Pointing to what he said was the importance of information technologies in the future global economy, Putin said Russia plans "to act in various systematically important fields" and called for "a new flexible legislation in order to ensure the use of technology in every sphere of life."
Putin added that he believes Russia has entered a "new phase of growth," and he expressed hope the Russian economy would grow faster than the global average by 2019-20. The economy is expected to show modest growth this year after falling into recession in 2014, when world oil prices collapsed and Western countries began imposing sanctions on Moscow over its aggression in Ukraine.
At a June 1 working breakfast on the sidelines of SPIEF, former Finance Minister and Kremlin economics adviser Aleksei Kudrin called the period from 2008 to 2017 a "lost decade" for Russia, with economic growth averaging just 1 percent. He criticized the Putin government for failing to privatize key sectors of the economy -- particularly the oil-and-gas industry.
"We are primarily a state economy," Kudrin said, "and this is killing the entrepreneurial spirit."
Kudrin added that Russia sorely needs "discussion in society, an open press because the press is a branch of power which enables all stakeholders to speak directly and openly about what is happening, including key [legal] cases."
SPIEF has been held annually since 1997. The 2016 rendition was attended by more than 12,000 people from 133 countries.
With reporting by Forbes.ru, Vedomosti, Regnum, TASS, Interfax, and RIA Novosti