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Russia Readies St. Petersburg International Economic Forum – OpEd

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Under the chosen theme ‘New Opportunities in a New World’ that reflects the changing global situations, the process of recovery from Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine crisis, St. Petersburg readies to host the landmark 25th International Economic Forum from June 15 to 18. That however, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin explained in his welcome message that Russia is highly concerned about its economic processes, developments and long-term sustainable growth, will attempt to tap opportunities – with a focus on a variety of issues including specific areas of industrial cooperation to information security and environmental protection – and work within the changing conditions. 

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The anniversary forum is taking place at a difficult time for the entire international community, he notes in the message to participants, and then added “the mistakes of Western countries in economic policy over many years and illegitimate sanctions have led to a wave of global inflation, the disruption of usual supply chains, and a sharp increase in poverty and food shortages. Yet, as can be the case, along with these challenges, new prospects are emerging.”

Putin, however, expressed his certainty that the forum continues to make significant contributions to solving numerous high-priority challenges facing humanity, while mutual trust, meaningfulness and commitment to fruitful dialogue and partnership will invariably remain its distinguishing features.

But the thornest challenge is the how to break or sustain the previous records of participants to the business forum. This year’s forum still attracts large numbers compared to several previous years. Despite the United States and European sanctions that might affect Westerners and Europeans, the participants are noticeably from the former Soviet republics, Asian and Pacific countries, Middle East and Arab countries including the United Arab Emirates and just a few from Africa have shown interest, according to organiers’ reports monitored this week. Egypt is billed as the “Guest Organizer” and has to play the major cultural roles as well as provide business guidance.

According to Roscongress, as of June 1, more than 2,700 business representatives have confirmed their participation in the forum, including over 1,000 heads of companies. Representatives of all Russian regions confirmed full-time participation in the event.

Our consistent monitoring shows, as at June 10 that there are more than 90 countries that confirmed participation in SPIEF’22 – that figure is impressive indeed, contrary to certain circumstances and expectations, it was up from mid-April when 69 countries indicated their participation in St. Petersburg.

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Putin’s dream is to strengthen the Greater Eurasian Union, a replica of European Union. There have been efforts during the past few years despite the challenges, and realizing this idea of an integrated economic union still far away though. During a special session entitled ‘EEU: New Integration Quality’ where experts will discuss the role and prospects of Eurasian integration. The Eurasian Economic Union successfully passes various global tests, including those of a non-economic nature, ensuring sustainable economic development for EAEU member states.

Adoption of Strategy-2025 by the heads of the member states was a timely and far-sighted step. Today, when the world economy is as turbulent as ever, the implementation of the strategy is a stabilizing foundation for growth, as well as impetus for a potential integration breakthrough. A policy aimed at the development of innovations is being implemented, new joint industries and markets of the EAEU are being opened, the main sectors of the economy and management processes are being digitally transformed, infrastructure is being developed.

“The task of the Eurasian Economic Union is to create conditions for a comprehensive technological transformation of the member states’ economies and to ensure Eurasian self-sufficiency. We plan to focus our efforts on the issues of import substitution and industrial cooperation, and we will also build mutually beneficial cooperation with stable international partners,” emphasized Mikhail Myasnikovich, Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission.

There will be a session entitled ‘The New SCO Business Agenda in Today’s World’, dedicated to the development of cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In today’s new geopolitical reality, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation plays a defining role in the economic development of the entire Eurasian space due to a combination of factors. 

In order to restore the global economic system, it is particularly important to align economic policy approaches of the organization’s member countries, avoid imbalances in trade and investment regulation and create additional incentives to deepen and diversify cooperation in all areas of the trade and economic agenda. 

The session participants will discuss the best ways to promote the interests of SCO businesses and boost their potential within the framework of the SCO Development Strategy until 2025. One important topic of discussion will also be how to put the enormous geopolitical potential of the SCO into practical cooperation at the business level. 

“Today, businesses of the organization’s countries are facing new opportunities up for to deepen cooperation. We see that entrepreneurs are interested in expanding contacts and promoting their goods and services in the markets of our countries. There is a need to strengthen cooperation in investment, innovation, establishment of reliable transport and logistics links, and financial infrastructure. In general, businesses are looking for ways to improve trade conditions in the region, reduce administrative barriers, and address other problems that hamper the potential of economic cooperation in the SCO region,” said Sergey Katyrin, Chairman of the Management Board, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.

As sanctions continue to bite, Russians are trying to stay focused. The limitations of international cooperation are motivating the producers of creative goods and services to reconsider their own approaches to creating added value: from design and material and equipment procurement to the choice of new sales channels and marketing designed for a different target audience and new target markets. At the same time, it is extremely important to catch the moment when the mass departure of foreign companies frees up niches for import substitution in the Russian market.

“Systemic support of the creative industries has always been among the top priorities of the Innosocium Foundation, and nowadays there is demand like never before. The Creative Business Forum gives us a unique opportunity to find the most effective answer, in real time, to the question of which creative industries currently possess the greatest potential for development – potential that must be turned into an effective resource and source of economic growth,” Deputy CEO of the Roscongress Foundation and Director of the Innosocium Foundation Elena Marinina said.

The ‘Filling the Economy with Creativity: Developing National Projects, Products, and Brands’ session focuses on providing infrastructure for creating competitive products and services, looking at changes in company strategies in the new economic conditions, highlighting successful projects, and considering best practices of import substitution in the creative industries.

Further on the first day, successful entrepreneurs and start-up creators, representatives of relevant authorities, leading corporations, investment funds, and academia will offer an insight and broad discussions on the key trends in technological development of megacities, including mobility, environmental friendliness and safety, as well as the process of transforming cities into modern ecosystems where decisions are made based on big data analysis. 

During the session ‘Modern Technologies and Content’, the Red Square Media Group will discuss how innovative technologies (including VR and AR) impact the learning process in children and their interaction with the world. 

Both existing and freshly emerging challenges facing Russia, stand as solid barriers though, but it could act as a bridge to the future for many industries and technologies. In the face of sanctions and the crisis of globalization, new horizons are opening up for Russia. Two separate blocks on the agenda will be devoted to discussing the current economic order and the challenges that have arisen.

One of the most important topics will be the creation of a new infrastructural standard for the leadership of Russian territories in view of the breakdown of many traditional supply chains and the need to significantly revise the retail markets. These very factors have become a catalyst for changing the values for both business and government. With them in mind, the importance of regional teams is increasing manifold, while the rate of sharing best management practices between regions is becoming a critical factor in economic growth and the well-being of the country as a whole.

“The world has changed dramatically, and our task is to see and fulfill new opportunities this change brings. It is essential for all the healthy forces of society to unite their efforts. New world, new challenges, new perspectives. Decisions based on the results of discussions and agreements at the Forum will give business and government the opportunity to implement them as effectively as possible, to strengthen and reinforce the goals of national development,” said Anton Kobyakov, Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee.

The outward-oriented strategy has increased the volatility of economies, as complete openness to foreign trade has exposed vulnerability to external shocks related to specific goods and foreign suppliers. As a result of the unprecedented sanctions, Russian industry found itself in a situation where the cooperative ties and chains, established over the years, were severed. The formation of new ties will be discussed in several sessions. 

Current changing realities, when a new world order architecture is being formed, how to establish a dialogue with Western investors in this environment becomes significant. Energy development and energy security issues, the oil and gas markets, as well as electricity, coal, transportation corridors, commodity sovereignty, and the challenges of green energy are increasingly demanding strategic directions. So it is necessary to review also modern healthcare, healthy nutrition, and investments in the creation of a sanitary shield – new directions in these developments, including the entry of start-ups into Asian markets.

Protection of business in Russia and abroad, production and promotion of content after a number of social networks have been blocked, food security in Russia, sustainable agriculture – these topics will also be the subject of separate sessions. In particular, participants will further consider questions about how quantum technologies can provide a global economic breakthrough, what prospects the digital footprint opens up, and what technologies based on artificial intelligence can come around in the near future.

With the changing entrepreneurial world, experts have been attempting to establish interconnection between business and arts. The northern cinema has been referred to as a phenomenon of the Russian film industry in recent years. It is distinguished primarily by how greatly it differs from conventional films. Symbols and collective cultural images give the viewer the feeling of venturing into unexplored territory. The forum provides a platform for this distinctive discussions.

Experts have been invited to speak, as broadly as possible, about the impact that the so-called northern film industry can have in the coming years on the social and economic development of the north and the achievement of the country’s national development goals, according to the Deputy CEO of the Roscongress Foundation and Director of the social platform of the Roscongress Foundation – the Innosocium Foundation Yelena Marinina said.

SPIEF’22 holds also the Russia – Latin America business dialogue. It is, therefore, highly expected that there are presentations at the SPIEF’22 from business representatives of Latin American countries. Sergei Cheremin, Minister of the Moscow Government and Head of the Department for External Economic and International Relations, told the media that his department will organize two high-class events as part of SPIEF’22.

Latin Americans and Russians will together discuss the pace of development of Moscow’s construction industry, the performance of its transport complex, as well as innovations in healthcare and medicine, education and the social sphere. It focuses on development strategy, the city’s latest achievements, and sharing best practices with key metropolitan areas in Latin America.

Alexey Valkov, Director of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, remarked: “It is important to build on the trust the countries have been developing for years now. SPIEF is a platform that will help focus on the key areas of cooperation and find new growth points, discuss the outlook for investment cooperation between Russia and Latin America, as well as government support for Russian and Latin American businesses and the development of integration in Eurasia, Latin American and Caribbean countries.”

Preparations for the second Russia-Africa Summit are currently underway. At the forum, the African agenda traditionally is of great importance. The SPIEF’22 programme includes the Russia-Africa Business Dialogue, which since 2016 has been the annual meeting place for representatives of Russian and African business and official communities.

“The Russian side aims to continue preparing the second, as well as subsequent Russian-Africa summits and aims to make them as efficient as possible. Currently, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other ministries are taking steps to build a full and mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and the African countries, including the formation of a reliable social and economic infrastructure, food and energy security on the continent,” said Oleg Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.

On 17 June, a grand concert ‘Stars of Russian Radio’ will be at the Palace Square in St. Petersburg. This show is brought to guests and residents of Russia’s northern capital by the Russian Media Group. The musical celebration is the highlight of the Petersburg Seasons Festival, organized by the Roscongress Foundation. The Festival brings together the events of the cultural programme of the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Zemlyane, Irina Dubtsova, Denis Klyaver, DJ Katya Guseva, Zvonkiy, Slava, Stas Kostyushkin, Marina Briz, Marsel and other popular Russian performers will take to the stage, set up in St. Petersburg’s main square. Everyone will be able to see this great show by Russian Radio. Admission to the concert is free.

The year 2022 has been declared the Year of folk art and intangible cultural heritage in Russia. The concert, organized by Russian Radio in Palace Square, offers the audience a sense of celebration and unity, further highlighting the beauty of Russian musical culture, which gives people positive emotions.

The Petersburg Seasons Festival at SPIEF’22 will bring together musical concerts, theatrical performances, art exhibitions, and local festivals in St. Petersburg and towns of the Leningrad Region. The Festival will become an attraction for both participants in the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and art lovers from all over Russia. Russian Media Group has the honorary status of General Partner of the SPIEF Festival of Culture this year.

The organizers gave the confirmation that foreign guests will cross the border without epidemiological restrictions, as Russia plans to lift all the necessary requirements to air transport and marine border crossings form June 14. St. Petersburg International Economic Forum takes place on 15–18 June at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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