ИА Neftegaz.RU: Good afternoon! The first question is - why was it necessary to set up such an organization? Whose initiative was it?
Les Condratoff: The company started in 1989. Actually in Canada there are thousands of associations. At that time in 1989 the former Soviet Union countries were changing and business interest was increasing in that area and there was a feeling among certain parties here that it had to be association to represent the group of people who are interested in former Soviet Union countries. So the association was found on that basis.
ИА Neftegaz.RU: What status does the CEEIA possess? Could we speak of the organization being "independent"?
Les Condratoff: It is 100% privately funded organization, whose members pay fare to be included into this exclusive group.
In turn we provide environment, business environment, for them to participate in sharing ideas, obtaining information, contacts, what ever they need to have.
You can see from membership list, that we are very diverse group of members, not just oil and gas companies, but also service providers, education providers and so on.
ИА Neftegaz.RU: Could we speak now about cooperation between our countries? For example, if we take KhMAO & Alberta? Do you see any perspectives?
Les Condratoff: The Canadian industry was very active in Russia in mid 90-s. Western companies aggressively moved to Russia. And since about mid 90-s our investment interest is abroad. We believe the Association is our start of that direction. I think we're starting to become more interesting because in Russia our membership has increased significantly in a last year. Khanty-Mansiisk region is very attractive for us.
ИА Neftegaz.RU: What are the most pressing problems encountered while maintaining business contacts in Russia (investments procedure, cultural, other)?
Les Condratoff: Well, I don't predict any problems. You know that there are two parts of oil and gas sector. One is a supply sector, which supplies technology, goods and services, too, to Russian companies. In that sector you can see the highest increase. Today with the high oil price Russian producers make lots of money. I believe that Canadian companies are rapidly realizing this sector; this is a market they need to engage. Supply sector also has some ways to protect itself, through letters of credit, prepayment. Payment issues could be the problem but that's being resolved by work.
There's a problem in a direct investment. Direct investors still do not want to consider Russia as a target market right now. I don't think it's much depending on that Russia is a market economy, and recognition as a permanent member of GATT now, you know the world can work with each other, Russia is an equal partner. But a certain psychological barrier can cross direct investments because when you take your money and put it nowadays then there's a problem to pull it out.
The Canadian direct investments into the oil and gas business are worldwide. There are about 130 oil companies here in Canada and each year they invest between $3.5bln to $4bln into 66 countries worldwide. Now the money is going to Russia and the only problem lies in legislative acts.
I think that everybodyrealize, that Russia is changing very rapidly. New join stock, tax, legislation changes, president Putin made significant changes in this area. Today, there's difference in Yeltsin and Putin eras and today's process is coming out with better and better articles and it's a matter of creating confidence and once confidence is achieved then you have optimism, once optimism is achieved then people give you money, too.
ИА Neftegaz.RU: How are the information and resource statistics collected, and stored by the CEEIA? How do you present your company and the information to society as a whole?
Les Condratoff: We are professional management organization. We have Web-site, we have distributions, we have many meetings during the year, conferences in Russia, Ukraine. We organize conferences, on which members can share information. We also make presentations of the companies in the countries of former Soviet Union. We would like to have ability to communicate with new users in Russia more directly …this is one thing our members want most of all. I mean we'd like to see Sybneft, TNK as our members. We 'd like to have these companies as a part of our association so we are interested in creating relations with Russia.
ИА Neftegaz.RU: Do you use Internet resources?
Les Condratoff: Talking about Internet we have just refreshed the Web-site, we're going to create a special Web-site for members and in that site we will provide a lot of information, things like changes in tax laws, legislation, contacts, privileges for members, human resources, people looking for work. I guess general contacts such as lawyers, accountants, governmental contacts.
ИА Neftegaz.RU: How does the interaction of the organization with other similar organizations within the country carried out?
Les Condratoff: We also work with other associations because they have their net-works of members and people, so we try to work as much as possible with them. We also have an initiative, there's an American equivalent to CEEIA. So we've taken steps to make contact with them, so if there's way we can collaborate between two associations and we try.
ИА Neftegaz.RU: And what about cooperation with the government?
Les Condratoff: First of all it's a material incentive. We would like money, we would like lots of money because with money we can bring more resources to our members and we can support our members.
I think we both the government and Association know that without each other we won't be able to achieve as much as we do at this time. The global petroleum show is just continuation of the cooperation, we had two years ago the similar event only about Russian oil and gas industry, world petroleum congress 2000, so we have to work together to achieve more.
ИА Neftegaz.RU: Could you explain your vision of our further cooperation?
Les Condratoff: I would recommend that both our organizations to make up a report together, we can think out white-papers. This is a term that basically would justify the cooperation between each other. We could show that here's association, together we can demonstrate to the government and to the industry and to everybody that these associations are very useful, that business should try participating in it.
Also there have been some talks about doing trade machinery to Russia from Canadian Federal so we might be included into KhMAO program. We have a list of members, we can put some information about your organization as our member, we can put information on our Web-site about that we are members, I think a lot of small steps.
ИА Neftegaz.RU: Thank you very much for such an interesting discussion! We hope our further cooperation will be very useful for both countries!