Western business at SPIEF proves it is against sanctions, eager to cooperate with Russia
9 June 2017. PenzaNews. The total price of official agreements signed during the 21st St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), which was held under the slogan “The global economy in search of a new balance” on June 1–3, amounted to more than 2 trillion rubles, which is almost double the volume of the previous year.
According to the deputy chairman of the forum organizing committee, Presidential adviser Anton Kobyakov, the event attracted more than 14,000 participants, including representatives of government and business, heads of international organizations, experts, scientists and journalists from more than 143 countries around the world.
“In its 21-year history the forum has not yet seen such large number of participants with a vast geography,” the adviser said at the final press conference.
Companies from the US, Germany, China, Italy and Japan were widely represented at SPIEF. The forum was also attended by high-ranking foreign politicians: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Secretary General Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, Prime Minister of the Gabonese Republic Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, Mongolian Prime Minister Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat, Commonwealth of Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Republic of South Ossetia President Anatoly Bibilov, Republic of Zimbabwe Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, Republic of Burundi Second Vice President Joseph Butore, and other officials.
This year, the guest countries of the forum were India and the Republic of Serbia. Qatar announced its intention to be the guest country next year.
The main topic for the discussions traditionally included the most important and acute issues of economic development, as well as the expansion and strengthening of cooperation between Russia and its global partners.
The main event of the SPIEF was the plenary session featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Austrian Federal Chancellor Christian Kern, and Republic of Moldova President Igor Dodon.
Moreover, in the framework of the forum, the Russian leader held a number of bilateral meetings, discussing, inter alia, economic interaction with the President of Republika Srpska Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik and the Prime Minister of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq, Necirvan Barzani.
Events on the forum sidelines included BRICS and SCO conferences, a meeting of the B20, as well as a special session devoted to the upcoming 19th World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi.
Commenting on the results of the international economic forum in St. Petersburg, Oleg Prozorov, Director General, the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in the Russian Federation, called SPIEF “the most significant and useful business event in Russia and Europe.”
“For the second year the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia is the official regional partner of the SPIEF. We see that the European business has been able to fully adapt to the new reality and continues to implement the plans expanding its presence in Russia. There is no talk of any boycott,” the expert told PenzaNews.
One of the goals of the forum is to attract key world politicians and leaders, he said.
“The main event of the forum was undoubtedly the speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which he once again stressed that Russia is open for dialogue and cooperation. For the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, the significant fact this year was the participation of Vice-Premier, Minister of Economy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg Etienne Schneider in the work of the forum,” Oleg Prozorov said.
He also stressed the effectiveness of the meetings held within the framework of the SPIEF.
“This year our Chamber held a number of important negotiations and panel discussions in order to support the export of Russian companies to the EU countries. As a result, we have signed five agreements on mutual understanding and two memorandums of cooperation with Russian organizations,” the expert explained.
“I am convinced that for the development of the Russian economy it is important not only to attract a foreign investor and create comfortable conditions for him, but also to provide support and assistance to Russian companies that produce a competitive product and want to export it to European countries. When every sixth workplace in the country is linked to exports, then Russia's GDP will be free of oil ‘curb’,” he added.
In turn, President of the Russian Investment Agency Yuri Spiridonov reminded that the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum broke several of its own records of the past.
“In particular, this concerns the number of participants and the number of signed investment agreements and memorandums. However, in addition to these record numbers, the clearly traced trend of the event was Russia’s intention to not only restore economic relations with the West, but also develop and deepen the ties with the East,” the expert said.
He recalled that American business took the first place in terms of numerical representation at the forum.
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“There were 560 people representing 140 US companies, which was the largest representation of foreign business from one country. This is a good sign given the fact that the inflow of investments into the Russian economy in 2017 was a record for the last three years, reaching 7 billion dollars. At the same time, within the framework of the main SPIEF program, BRICS and SCO conferences were held, as well as the Russian-Indian forum dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries. The Russian president also met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following which Vladimir Putin announced that India's full-scale entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, launched in 2015 in Ufa, will be fixed in June,” Yuri Spiridonov said.
In his opinion, the development of the digital economy of Russia received special attention during the SPIEF.
“Traditional IT-breakfast within the framework of the forum was dedicated to the development of the Russian digital economy, mobile components and data economy. At the same time, the significance of the development of the digital economy is comparable to the development of the Internet. According to many scientists, the future of our country and the whole world lies with the digital economy. That is why this topic is so important for the president of the Russian Federation: he set the goal to reach the leading positions in this field. This will become the main task for the country in the next decade,” President of the Russian Investment Agency suggested.
Meanwhile, Alexander Rahr, Research Director of the German-Russian Forum, shared the opinion that the SPIEF demonstrated the desire of the West to develop its business in Russia.
“The forum showed that Western business is eager to return to the Russian market. Well, Western campaigns do not want to give their traditional niches in Russia to Asian entrepreneurs. They hope that the future economic program of the Russian president will open new opportunities for investment. In order to understand how it will look, many businessmen took part in the SPIEF,” the analyst said.
Representatives of Western business circles hope for the abolition of sanctions, he believes.
“First of all, this concerns Russian sanctions against the West. But, unfortunately, business is also beginning to understand that Russian-Ukrainian disagreements will not soon go away, and Ukraine still has powerful leverage through its associates at the institutions of the European Union, which in turn spoil Russia’s life,” the expert added.
He also pointed special attention to the panel discussion with the participation of Vladimir Putin, moderated by the American journalist Megyn Kelly.
“This conversation vividly demonstrated the current function of the Western media. Not journalism comes first. The Western media have taken on the role of prosecutor, judge and punisher in one person: so they run the politics, trying to remove ‘unreliable politicians’ from the arena, instilling certain values in society. While [Vladimir] Putin demonstrated high firmness, specifically responding to the journalist’s repeated question about Russia’s alleged interference in the US election campaign on the side of [Donald] Trump, she seemed not to listen to his answers, but accused and accused, simply using the high tribune of the SPIEF for her self-promotion back in the US. A striking change in the journalistic genre in the West,” Alexander Rahr said.
In turn, Amitendu Palit, Economist, the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore, noted that the main message coming out of the SPIEF was locating a new balance in the global economy.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the world economic order is going to organize itself around a few hubs of economic activity. These hubs are countries with the ability to contribute significantly to a new era of globalization. Russia is clearly one of these countries as are India and China. The large number of business deals signed during the SPIEF is an indication of the interest of other countries in working out business partnerships with Russia. In a sense, the SPIEF firmly establishes the importance of Russia as a major actor in the modern global economy,” the expert said.
From his point of view, economic engagement is one of the most effective ways for improving bilateral and international relations.
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“The SPIEF is an effective step in this direction from the Russian perspective. The forum was particularly useful in highlighting the strategic partnership between Russia and India - the guest country of the SPIEF,” the analyst said.
“The SPIEFs have been particularly useful occasions for establishing President [Vladimir] Putin as a major global leader. The success of the SPIEF in attracting businesses from various parts of the world and highlighting the crucial role that Russia can play in the global economic order is largely credited to President Putin’s proactive leadership,” Amitendu Palit added.
Meanwhile, Sergei Perapechka, Partner and Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Moscow, called the SPIEF “an excellent platform for meetings and dialogue.”
“The Boston Consulting Group has been participating in the SPIEF for more than 10 years. For us, this is an excellent opportunity to present our expert opinion and exchange views with representatives of a wide range of areas, including the public sector, health sphere, industrial, energy, automotive, transport, aerospace production, and others. From year to year the organizers keep the brand high, carefully selecting topics that are most relevant for Russia,” said BCG director.
In his opinion, the success of the SPIEF this year exceeded all expectations of the participants.
“We welcome the expansion of the SPIEF format: in addition to traditional sessions, the program included training seminars; sessions of bilateral dialogue have expanded, there appeared competitions and awards. In particular, we were very pleased to see our book Strategies Also Need a Strategy among the finalists of the Best Business Book of the Year contest,” the expert noted.
He also reminded that the main topics of the discussion were Russia’s structural reforms, the digital economy creation and the ways of the country’s joining the group of world technological leaders.
“In our opinion, the most important factors for accelerating the growth of Russia's digital economy include not only the introduction of innovative technologies, but, above all, the development of human capital. These are extremely interrelated topics. Priority measures may include, among other things, stimulation of high business demand for the personnel education and retraining, revision of the approach to the pedagogical personnel formation and stimulation of people to continual improvement,” Sergey Perapecka said.
In his opinion, the SPIEF should further expand the geography of its influence.
“Russia must show its openness to the world, despite the increase in external pressure. The language of business is clear to everyone. This language should open every political boundary,” the expert concluded.
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, the 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.