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Experts: Tough political context not to affect SPIEF effectiveness

23:45 | 17.04.2018 | Analytic

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17 April 2018. PenzaNews. The key theme of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), which will take place in the northern capital of Russia on May 24–26, will be building the relations based on trust. This was reported by the press service of the Roscongress Foundation, which is the organizer of the event.

Experts: Tough political context not to affect SPIEF effectiveness

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“The President set the goal of increasing the growth rate in the Russian economy to a level higher than the global average. To accomplish this, investments should amount to 25–27% of GDP. This is a complex task that requires the systemic development of infrastructure and export capabilities, the creation of new convenient financial instruments, the substantial simplification of administrative procedures, and predictable macroeconomic conditions. However, this will not be sufficient if the trust between the public, business, and the government does not attain a qualitatively new level. Therefore ‘building a trust economy’ – the main theme selected for this year’s Forum – reflects one of the most important tasks we face today,” Russian Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin said in his statement published on the SPIEF website.

According to the organizers, discussions within the framework of the business program will be held in four thematic areas: The Global Economy in an Era of Change, Russia: Utilizing Growth Potential, Leadership Technologies and Human Capital in the Digital Economy.

In addition, the SPIEF will host events of the Valdai Discussion Club, the Youth Economic Forum, meeting devoted to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) digital agenda, as well as a panel session New Directions For Trade, Economic And Investment Partnerships With The BRICS Countries, where the participants will discuss priorities of the Republic of South Africa chairmanship in the association.

As expected, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will be attended by representatives from Sweden, Italy, Israel, Vietnam, Greece, the Canada Eurasia Russia Business Association (CERBA).

According to the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), the kingdom will be sending to SPIEF-2018 the most substantial delegation in the history of the forum: the delegation is expected to include economic ministers as well as CEOs from some of the country’s largest companies, roughly 150 delegates altogether.

Moreover, participation in the forum was confirmed by businessmen and representatives of state structures of African countries, as well as the head of the Japanese government Shinzo Abe.

Analyzing the potential effectiveness of the upcoming event, Stefano Maullu, member of the European Parliament from Italy, Group of the European People’s Party member, expressed the opinion that “the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum is certainly one of the main world's poles of attractions for business.”

“We must bear in mind that when business is conducted fairly, every stakeholder involved will benefit from it. I expect the SPIEF to grow in importance and in numbers, and hopefully to became a tool of dialogue and fair confrontation between countries,” the politician told PenzaNews.

He also reminded that the relationship between the Russian Federation and the European Union is nowadays challenged by external factors.

“While the cooperation in many fields between Italy and Russia can produce nothing but wellness, other partners of the EU seem to have perceived this proximity as a threat to their own geopolitical agenda. Let me explain it better with an actual example: the Russian gas is, and will remain, the best resource for the European industries. It is indeed a high quality and low price source of energy. The recent gas directive reform which is being discussed in Brussels in these weeks aims to decrease the Russian energy intake to the EU. In the meanwhile, new LNG terminals were built in Europe to receive the liquefied gas, which is more expensive and worse in quality compared to the one from Russia, from other countries that only recently became gas exporters. This is clearly an attempt to further dig the separation between Moscow and Brussels,” Stefano Maullu explained his view.

According to him, economic contacts, including the participation of foreign entrepreneurs in the SPIEF, will improve relations between the West and Russia.

“This is what I'm standing for at the European Parliament, as I strongly believe that economic ties between Europe and Russian, in Eurasian perspective, should be the main goal we all need to achieve in the next years,” the European Parliament deputy added.

Meanwhile, Oleg Prozorov, Director General, the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in the Russian Federation, stressed that the SPIEF “annually brings positive results and contributes to the establishment of international economic relations.”

“Being a long-term official partner of the forum, the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia will take an active part in the SPIEF this year. We plan to participate in the work of round tables, intend to sign two important framework agreements with new partners. We, for our part, note the improvement of the business climate, the increase of joint projects and the expansion of those European productions that are already present on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the expert said.

He also stressed that the Chamber of Commerce is a non-governmental organization and “is not distracted by the political agenda.”

“We and our members have an interesting work ahead at the St. Petersburg forum and the upcoming World Cup, as well as very ambitious plans for the second half of 2018,” Oleg Prozorov said.

“If you paid attention to the list of officials who visit the event in the northern capital every year and visit the SPIEF this year, there is no political isolation [of Russia] at all. We must look at the real deeds, look around ourselves and see those positive trends that are there. As Bulgakov’s Professor Preobrazhensky said: ‘Do not read bad newspapers in the morning’,” added Director General of the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia, interpreting the famous phrase from the book Heart of a Dog, which in the original sounds “Do not read Soviet newspapers before dinner.”

In turn, Anton Friesen, Member of the foreign affairs committee and the committee on humanitarian assistance and human rights of the German Parliament, shared the opinion that difficult relations between the European Union and Russia today are constituted through mutual misunderstandings and divergent perspectives on world politics.

“The Russian political elite still thinks in classic, realistic terms – great power, balance of powers etc., while the EU-elite dreams of a new normative EU-led world order. These different perspectives lead to clashes in real political life. So, the EU is not willing to accept Russian spheres of interest and Russia is not willing to accept EU interference in its own domestic affairs, including human rights and fair elections,” the politician said.

From his point of view, the countries have to find a new language of understanding to solve the security and economic problems.

“Of course, the participation of various foreign companies in the SPIEF can and will strengthen economic relations. So, we already know that, for example, delegations from Canada and Israel will take part in the forum. Last year, over 637 companies and 39 ministries from 26 countries took part in the SPIEF. [According to the press service of the Roscongress Foundation, the form was attended by over 14,000 business representatives, heads of international companies, officials, experts, researchers and journalists from 143 countries, including heads of 700 Russian and 400 foreign companies.] Contracts in value of 31 billion euro were signed. I approximate that this year the sum will be even bigger,” Anton Friesen said.

“Economic contacts will improve the relations between Russia and the European Union. But so will human contacts, including youth exchange and cultural exchange,” the Bundestag deputy added.

At the same time, Ilgar Velizade, Head of the Baku-based South Caucasus Club of Political Scientists, did not exclude the possibility of a boycott of the SPIEF-2018 by some Western companies.

In his opinion, the forum can become a good indicator of the real situation around the economic interaction with Russia of companies that are active participants of the international market.

“Business is often guided by principles and approaches which are different than those of the politicians. The forthcoming forum will show how much these approaches differ or coincide in the case of Russia,” Ilgar Velizadeh explained.

In turn, Evgeniya Voyko, associate professor of the department of political science at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, drew attention to the fact that the SPIEF is an annual business event, the organization of which was not refused even in the most stressful periods, as, for example, in 2014.

“The parties held meetings, signed contracts, but, as we see, it did not change the relationship between Russia and the collective West. There were a lot of economic summits and meetings, but in the political sense they do not have a significant impact on the situation. Participants said that it is necessary to conduct dialogue with Russia and establish relations, but the opinion of the economic elite is different from the opinion of the political elite, which is often looking at what is happening with blinkers on. I am talking about the elite of Europe and the United States: for today, economic cooperation between Moscow and Washington is rather insignificant, and Europeans have become the main opponents of the Russian Federation on the international arena,” the analyst said.

Negative information background, which was diligently created by the West, contributed to the complication of the atmosphere around the event, she believes.

“Nevertheless, there are always companies interested in cooperation with Russia and ready to work with our country, having a certain economic interest. The experience of recent years has shown that, despite a rather tough political context, economic relations continue,” 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 also attends the event.

Over this time, 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.

The total price of official agreements signed during the SPIEF-2017, which was held under the slogan The Global Economy in Search of a New Balance, amounted to more than 2 trillion rubles, which is almost double the volume of 2016.

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