Russian President Vladimir Putin sent greetings to participants, organizers and guests of the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum, which will be held in a live format at the Expoforum Convention and Exhibition Center on June 2–5, with strict adherence to safety measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus infection.
As he noted, according to the established tradition the key and most pressing issues facing the economies will be discussed at the forum with the participation of prominent public officials, senior executives from major corporations and financial institutions, renowned experts, and pioneering entrepreneurs.
“The need for open, constructive dialogue is particularly evident today. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all countries across the globe, and has severely restricted international ties. It is vital to work together as we forge a path to recovery. Other socioeconomic issues such as poverty relief, improving education opportunities, expanding employment and prospects for labour markets, as well as addressing violations of fair competition principles also require careful attention,” says Russian President’s message published on the Kremlin website.
“We must now endeavour to build equal, constructive partnerships between members of the global community and expand business ties on a number of levels to effectively tackle today’s critical global challenges and achieve sustainable development. We have long worked towards these ends through the Eurasian Economic Union, promoting principles of free trade, and facilitating mutually beneficial investments and common technological development. The Russian Federation is also interested in closer economic, scientific, and technical cooperation with partners in other regions. We are ready to share our experience in areas such as healthcare and digitalisation, and to work with partners to build better telecommunications, energy, and transport infrastructure. We also recognize the importance of addressing key issues facing the environment and climate,” the message says.
Moreover, in his greeting, Vladimir Putin, who is going to attend SPIEF 2021 Plenary Session in person, expressed confidence that the agreements reached at the Forum will contribute to the development of international relations and facilitate the implementation of new economic projects.
The main theme of the Forum is “A Collective Reckoning of the New Global Economic Reality.” The main business program is divided into four thematic tracks: ‘Joining Forces to Advance Development’, ‘Delivering on National Development Targets’, ‘The Human Factor in Responding to Global Challenges’, and ‘New Technology Frontiers.’
According to the information presented on the website of the Roscongress Foundation, which is the organizer of the forum, intercountry dialogues will also be held on the sidelines of SPIEF with representatives of the business communities of Africa, Germany, Italy, Qatar, Latin America, North America, Finland, France, Sweden, and Japan, and the EAEU–ASEAN dialogue will take place. The SPIEF business program includes more than 130 expert discussions and covers a wide range of topics that aim to develop various areas of the economy.
“This year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will be the first major business event following the forced pause in face-to-face events. We have provided support to the Forum’s foreign guests for unhindered entry into the Russian Federation. Representative delegations from numerous countries have confirmed they will attend. A significant part of the business programme is devoted to issues concerning international cooperation to advance development. Today, we have already found ourselves in a new reality in a changed world. Our job is to rebuild and to this end it is crucial to unite our efforts and build a dialogue both at the national and the international level,” Adviser to the Russian President and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee Anton Kobyakov said.
Qatar is the guest country for SPIEF 2021. The Qatari delegation will be one of the largest in the history of the country’s participation in international economic forums; representatives of 50 Qatari organizations will come to the Forum in St. Petersburg. The SPIEF business program will feature discussions on the development of trade, economic, and cultural relations between Russia and Qatar. In addition, the Russia–Qatar Business Dialogue, a high-level discussion devoted to the further development of investment opportunities, will be held.
Foreign participants of SPIEF include: Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne, Wintershall Dea GmbH Chairman of the Board and CEO Mario Mehren, Siemens Energy AG President and CEO Christian Bruch, Huawei Eurasia President Daniel Zhou, WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge, World Energy Council Secretary General and CEO Angela Wilkinson, World Economic Forum President Borge Brende, and Qatar Financial Centre Authority CEO and Member of the Board of Directors Yusuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, among others.
Commenting on the upcoming event in St. Petersburg, Neil MacKinnon, Global Macro Strategist at VTB Capital, stressed that SPIEF has a long-standing good reputation.
“It has a long-standing reputation amongst international investors and top policymakers as a key event in the financial market calendar for discussing important topics for both the global and Russian economies,” the expert said.
According to Neil MacKinnon, the event is so important that even the online format of the forum due to the restrictions associated with COVID-19 would not detract from the significance of the event.
In addition, in his opinion, the economic situation in the world is gradually improving, and the topic of international cooperation is again acquiring special relevance.
“The picture for the global economy is much more positive than it was a year ago and the major economies have put in place supportive policy measures to overcome the impact of COVID-19 and ensure a transition back to pre-pandemic growth trends,” Neil MacKinnon added.
In turn, Philip Hanson, Emeritus Professor of the Political Economy of Russia and Eastern Europe, University of Birmingham, suggested that SPIEF this year will attract fewer Western participants than usual.
“This will apply to both virtual and in person participation formats. This is partly because virtual participation gives less opportunity for informal conversations but also because of the strained relations currently between Russia and the West,” the expert explained.
In his opinion, the main interest of SPIEF is the domestic discussion of economic policy.
“This could be of particular interest this year. There are tensions over the degree of austerity in macroeconomic policy – how will the budget rule be modified? And there are related tensions between business and government over how – and indeed whether – private investment can be increased. It would be characteristic of SPIEF 2021 if these topics were aired,” Philip Hanson added.
Evgeniya Voyko, Associate Professor of the department of political science at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, noted that SPIEF is a good opportunity to restart business activities.
“The Forum will allow attracting investors and finding partners, despite the restrictions due to the pandemic, which, of course, influence the event. So, not all foreign participants have the opportunity to come to SPIEF because of their domestic rules related to the pandemic, or because of their own psychological reasons – many decided not to risk it. In addition, there are certain limits and sanitary standards, the observance of which is one of the main conditions for the forum to take place,” the expert said.
According to her, the level of relations between the Russian Federation and the Western countries is now quite low, but this does not apply to all states.
“In particular, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz confirmed his participation in the forum. Austria kept neutrality and did not support the anti-Russian rhetoric that was voiced in Europe last month,” Evgeniya Voyko said, adding that for the Russian authorities, SPIEF would also be an excellent way to once again state their position on some international issues.
Meanwhile, Oleg Prozorov, Director General of the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia, called St. Petersburg International Economic Forum the main platform for interaction between business, politics, government and the economy in the Eurasian space.
“We see the success of the forum this year in the fact that SPIEF will be the first international business event to be held [in person] after the COVID-19 pandemic,” Oleg Prozorov said.
“The Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia and its members pin their hopes and expect that the St. Petersburg Economic Forum will be the start of a new business season and open borders for the movement of the business community. We hope that the forum will demonstrate how international economic ties will develop further,” he said.
Christiane Schuchart, Regional Director, Russia, German Eastern Business Association, stressed that after a long break in face-to-face meetings, SPIEF will become an excellent platform for dialogue and views exchange, the need for which is long overdue.
“Existing relationships can also be maintained online, but establishing new contacts and relationships only through online formats is difficult and hardly possible in the long term,” she explained.
According to her, one of the important results of the SPIEF will be the agreements and contracts concluded between its participants.
“In addition to the urgently needed dialogue, a number of contracts will definitely be signed. We already know about some of the initiatives that the representatives of the German side must sign with their Russian partners,” said the Regional Director for Russia of the German Eastern Business Association.
“Thus, the forum provides an opportunity to maintain and develop a network of contacts, as well as continue activities and projects suspended since February 2020. We welcome the determination of the Russian government to resume holding the forum in person in June, despite the pandemic,” Christiane Schuchart concluded.