Experts: SPIEF becomes one of most important platforms for international business contacts
18 May 2019. PenzaNews. The key topic of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), which will be held at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre on June 6–8, is Creating a Sustainable Development Agenda, says the official website.
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According to the adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Anton Kobyakov, the Forum programme is based on a thorough analysis of current trends in the development of all sectors of the global economy.
“Thanks to the work of experts, scholars, professional and public associations, the discussions under the SPIEF business programme annually become the key to resolving the most crucial problems of global development. The conclusions drawn from the Forum’s discussions encourage business and government to take the decisions needed for achieving sustainable development goals”, he said.
According to the organizers, the programme of the Forum consists of four thematic blocks: The Global Economy in Search of a Balance, The Russian Economy: Achieving National Development Goals, Technologies Shaping the Future, and People First.
During business sessions, participants will discuss the most topical issues of global macroeconomic development, changes in the structure of the world economy, trade, problems of competition, investment, and the development of Russian regions.
Moreover, they will concentrate on the cyberthreats, digitalization of certain sectors of the economy, international cooperation in science, competitiveness of Russian education, immigration policy and public health architecture.
In addition, the SPIEF programme involves the World Energy Council session and the Valdai Club sessions, the B20 Regional Consultation Forum, the EAEU—ASEAN business dialogues, the Russian-Chinese Energy Business Forum, the International Youth Economic Forum, the SCO Conference, the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Forum, and the BRICS Conference.
Commenting on the upcoming event in St. Petersburg, Philip Hanson, Associate Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House, noted the importance of the forum for the development of interstate economic relations.
“It is an event that is monitored by analysts and businesspeople concerned with trade and investment with Russia. Investment and trade between Europe and Russia are still limited by sanctions and by sluggish growth in both Russia and the Eurozone, constraining demand. [...] But there are signs of life,” the expert told PenzaNews.
“Nord Stream 2 [...] still has strong support from Germany and will not be halted. Total's investment in Novatek's Arctic LNG seems to be going ahead,” the British analyst explained.
According to him, the composition of the forum participants and theses of its main speakers are of particular interest, since they will demonstrate the emerging trends.
“Who will attend from Europe? From the US? Will Putin adopt a Russia-is-open-for-business tone? He probably will. What will be the messages from leading members of the Russian government's economic bloc? In particular, what will the message be about future tax burdens? Uncertainty about taxation concerns foreign as well as domestic business. I anticipate business-friendly speeches, but the constraints of sanctions and relatively weak demand on both sides remain,” Philip Hanson said.
Meanwhile, Bunn Nagara, Senior Fellow, Institute of Strategic and International Studies, suggested that business cooperation follows the basic general rule of “more is better.”
“Russian businesses face a number of challenges. First, there is little information available internationally about the opportunities and possibilities for partnerships between Russian and foreign businesses. International news is still dominated by Western news agencies which have a different focus and agenda. Russia is often seen only politically and negatively. Without sufficient information available about prospective business cooperation and partnerships, many foreign businesses will stay away,” the expert said.
“SPIEF is useful for promoting economic relations and the investment climate generally. It is a situation of every little bit helps in spreading awareness. Nonetheless, there is a sense that SPIEF can do more. Better public relations and improved information dissemination are very important,” Bunn Nagara explained.
In his opinion, today many states suffer from arbitrary international sanctions.
“Countries with business dealings with Iran for example have been targeted in such illegitimate sanctions. Unless there is coordinated planning by different countries to maneuver against such sanctions, international business cooperation will be a victim and suffer. Russia is an important country and a major world power. It may be possible for it to show leadership in such international coordination around or against illegitimate sanctions,” the analyst stressed.
It is always possible to change the situation for the better, he said.
“Russia is a large country that is in both Europe and Asia. It spans both major continents, so SPIEF can do much to bring Asian and European business linkages together and build on them. SPIEF can develop itself into that vital transcontinental link that opens up many new opportunities for East and West. To do this, it needs to do more in spreading more and better information about its achievements, the progress so far, its future plans, and the opportunities available,” Bunn Nagara said.
Alexander Rahr, Research Director of the German-Russian Forum, shared the view that Russian and Western business is going through rather difficult times because of sanctions that adversely affect the overall climate.
“Russia is actually turning away from Europe, which is pushing it toward Asia. Moscow focuses on the Chinese and Asian markets, as well as its own, restoring production within the country. This is quite difficult – in partnership with the West, the process would go faster. However, Europe puts political issues ahead of economic benefits, and I see no improvement in the current situation,” the expert said.
At the same time, in his opinion, such events as SPIEF are very helpful, since it is an important tool and mediator for mutual business interests.
“But politics interferes. I know that at the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, American and German officials persuaded Western business not to go to the SPIEF for political reasons, urging ‘not to encourage Russia’ or ‘punish it’,” Alexander Rahr reminded.
“Until the highest politics stops interfering with business rapprochement, there will be no obvious changes for the better. Politicians in every country have very strong leverage. The forum is important, but you will see for yourself that there will be more representatives of Asia than those of Europe in St. Petersburg,” he suggested.
In turn, Christiane Schuchart, Regional Director, Russia, German Eastern Business Association, expressed hope that the EU and Russia will be able to develop a joint, constructively oriented concept and will adhere to it.
“German companies promote such European policy that could lead to growth and improve relations between the EU countries and Russia. Today we again observe a positive dynamic in the dialogue between the EU and the Russian Federation and we hope that this will find a response in the sphere of economic interaction,” she said.
Christiane Schuchart noted that SPIEF plays a special role in fostering such cooperation.
“For many German companies, SPIEF has become one of the most important conferences in Russia, which serves as a platform for exchanging information on the current economic situation and for meeting with business partners. On the fields of the forum, the discuss their projects and develop the contacts, which in turn plays an important role in making future corporate decisions. As part of the SPIEF this year, we also plan to sign a number of agreements between German and Russian companies,” the representative of German Eastern Business Association explained.
According to her, the EU and Russia have many themes, an approach to which can be only found by joint efforts.
“There is a certain need to turn the current situation into a positive direction. We have large, interesting topics for both sides, such as increasing labor productivity, developing small and medium businesses, economy digitizing, realizing global climate protection goals, ensuring reliable energy and raw materials, and improving mobility. Modern and innovative companies from the EU and Russia are already working together to address issues in all of the above areas, but there is still a lot of potential for enhanced cooperation. Of course, we should not be silent about political differences and conflicts. Foreign investors in Russia need a promising and stable environment, so we expect from both sides to contribute to new attempts to establish trust and actively work on the peaceful resolution of existing conflicts,” Christiane Schuchart concluded.