10 June 2016. PenzaNews. Less than a week is left until the 20th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2016) will start its work in the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre on Pulkovo Heights, St. Petersburg, on June 16–18.
“The global economy is increasingly impacted by political and social factors. The challenges facing the global community demand concerted action aimed at achieving sustainable and balanced growth. It is vital that we work together in our search for additional drivers of development. We must more fully make use of the industrial, scientific, technological, and innovative potential of our nations, and also the potential of international integration structures. We must react more swiftly to the shifting demands of the market and to the looming transformation of the global technological landscape,” Vladimir Putin said in his address to the participants, organizers, and guests of the Forum published on the SPIEF website.
He also stressed that the guests and participants can expect a far-reaching and comprehensive program.
“It includes the Business 20 Forum, BRICS Business Forum, and SCO Business Forum, as well as meetings between official delegations from Russia, Kazakhstan, Italy, and other countries. Among the other events scheduled are a special Valdai Club session, the Russian Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Forum, and a conference focused exclusively on the Arctic, thereby marking another first for the Forum. Conversely, the traditional Global Energy Award and Development Award ceremonies will also be held during the Forum, along with a business summit for heads of the world’s largest energy producers,” the President said.
Moreover, he expressed confidence that the upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will allow to develop agreements that could positively influence the economy of the Russian Federation and other countries.
“I firmly believe that the recommendations and agreements drawn up during the Forum will help drive economic recovery in Russia and around the world, promote international cooperation based on egalitarian principles across a wide range of spheres, and give rise to mutually beneficial long-term projects,” Vladimir Putin stated.
For the first time in two years, high-ranking officials of the European Union will visit this event.
“The Forum opening ceremony will be staged on June 16. We expect it will be attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President of Guinea Alpha Conde,” Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and SPIEF Steering Committee Chairman Sergei Prikhodko said.
It is expected that the SPIEF 2016 will be attended by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Austria’s Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, and Cuba’s Vice-President of the Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz.
“Statistics says interest in the Forum is growing. The number of participants registered on the official website is higher than last year,” Sergei Prikhodko said.
Commenting on the upcoming event, Michael Harms, the Executive Director of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations (Ost-Ausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft), said that for many German companies, SPIEF has become a major economic conference in Russia.
“German representatives are willing to participate in it to find out more about the current economic development of Russia and meet Russian business partners. This year the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations is represented by many member companies,” he told PenzaNews.
According to him, the Forum is an important platform for the exchange of business contacts in Russia and promotion of international cooperation.
“We expect new contracts, perhaps even more than in 2014 and 2015 due to the positive trends in the Russian economy,” Michael Harms said.
From his point of view, Jean-Claude Juncker’s participation in SPIEF 2016 indicates the EU’s interest in renewing and strengthening dialogue with Russia.
“Despite major protests in some EU countries, Jean-Claude Juncker is going to take part in this event. We truly believe that due to the common economic interest, we could return to a positive agenda between the EU and Russia,” he added.
Knut Fleckenstein, Vice-Chair of Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament responsible for foreign affairs, shared this point of view and welcomed European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s plans to attend the St Petersburg international economic forum.
“I encourage the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to participate in this important meeting. The European Union must find a pragmatic way to deal with Russia, without denying the serious differences between us,” MEP said.
Bringing relations out of the crisis will not be possible when all dialogue is blocked, he stressed.
“Despite the existing problems and disagreements, we need a dialogue between the EU and Russia in order to jointly tackle the many global challenges,” Knut Fleckenstein added.
In turn, Oleg Prozorov, Director General, the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in the Russian Federation, called SPIEF the most important business event in Russia and one of the most important in the world.
“The participation of European Commission President in the Forum demonstrates the willingness of European partners to save contacts and maintain relations with Russia. In addition, I want to highlight the participation of Etienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy of Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, distinguished guests from other EU countries, and – the main thing for us as a Chamber of Commerce – a broad participation in the event of companies from Belgium and Luxembourg. Political dialogue and strengthening of economic contacts should positively impact the relations with the European Union, and we would very much like to see the policies following the economy and not vice versa,” the expert said.
He stressed that the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia cooperates closely with government institutions for economic development and the Chamber of Commerce of the Russian Federation.
“We see gradual improvement of the investment climate in Russia, which is also reflected in the Doing Business rankings. However, talking about the comfort for doing business, it is necessary to recognize that the best indicator of the investment climate is the desire of the Russian business to invest in projects and manufacture in their own country,” Oleg Prozorov said.
International observers and participants of the event expect from the SPIEF 2016 statements about the future economic policy of the country, new agreements and contracts, he believes.
“Practice shows that the agreements reached within the Forum are of great importance for the development of economy and business. For its part, the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber in the Russian Federation, as an official regional partner of the event, will continue its work to strengthen confidence among entrepreneurs and to inform businesses about the prospects of cooperation in Russia, Belgium and Luxembourg,” Director General, the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia, said.
Simeon Djankov, Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Bulgaria, said the St Petersburg Economic Forum is the major event of the year for international investors to meet Russian business and political leaders and understand what opportunities there exist for doing business in Russia.
“This year’s event is attracting more interest than the last two years, as investors are cautiously starting to look beyond the current economic sanctions. The announced participation of EU Commission President Juncker and Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva suggests that European leaders look to reopen their contacts with Russia. This is welcome news for both the European Union and Russia. Both need each other to boost economic growth, and the imposed sanctions are hurting producers in both markets,” the analyst said.
Commenting on the US attempts to put pressure on the US and European companies which intend to participate in SPIEF 2016, the expert stressed the importance of economic relations between the states.
“It is short-sighted to limit business-to-business interaction. Such discussions improve understanding on what are common goals, on the basis of which politicians can find reasonable diplomatic solutions. The absence of some American and European companies from the St Petersburg Forum the last two years hurts producers and consumers in all markets,” Simeon Djankov explained.
“Business-to-business interactions increase the possibility for higher economic growth, and for better political understanding between nations,” he added.
In turn, Russian political scientist Pavel Danilin expressed hope that this year the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will become a significant event not only in terms of strengthening economic ties.
“I hope that this event will be a breakthrough especially after the Upper House of the French Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the facilitation of the sanctions regime against Russia. Participation of Jean-Claude Juncker also looks quite encouraging. I believe that at the meeting of the President of the European Commission and Vladimir Putin there will be announced the sequential lifting of sanctions. According to the latest report of the commission on the Malaysian Boeing crash in Ukraine, it was, most likely, hit by the Ukrainian Air Defense. The situation surrounding the disaster was the main reason that prompted the Europeans to impose sanctions against Russia. Removing this reason will be a major step towards the lifting of the sanctions,” the expert said.
He also added that he expects a lot of business contracts to be signed during the Forum.
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) first took place in 1997 and since 2006, it has been held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation, who has also attended each event.
Over the last decade, SPIEF has become a leading international platform for the discussion of the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole.
It is expected that the total number of SPIEF 2016 participants will reach 10,000 people. The business program of the Forum, which includes about 100 different events, will attract about 200 experts and moderators from more than 30 countries.
Among the heads of international organizations and major foreign businesses to be present at the Forum are Bahrain Mumtalakat CEO Mahmood Hashim Alkooheji, Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma, Board Chairman of Wintershall Holding GmbH Mario Mehren, Societe Generale CEO Frederic Oudea Schneider Electric CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire and others.