By Kester Kenn Klomegah*
MOSCOW (IDN) — Despite the Russia-Ukraine crisis going on from bad to worse, with a visible geopolitical impact, the historic city of St. Petersburg is gearing up for the mid-June International Economic Forum. Titled “New Opportunities in a New World”, it will take place from June 15–18 in the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Amid stringent sanctions imposed by the US and European Union, the organizers have decided to focus on the Asian-Pacific and African countries. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2022 marks its 25th anniversary with Egypt playing the honorary status of guest organizer and as the silver jubilee participant.
According to reports, Egypt will simultaneously help with preliminary preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit scheduled for the third quarter of this year. This honorary status involves the organization of a whole range of events within the business and cultural programmes.
Late April, Governor of St. Petersburg, Alexander Beglov, said during the annual report to the legislative assembly that interest has been comparatively low in this year’s forum. “I would like to inform: 69 countries confirmed participation in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum this June. Applications continue coming as well. The economic forum will definitely take place,” Beglov reassured.
Understandably due to Covid-19, there were disruptions for two previous years. But 2019, brought together a record-breaking number of participants: over 19,000 people from 145 countries, with 1,300 guests representing heads of companies. During that year, for the first time, SPIEF was attended by representatives from countries such as Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Côte d’Ivoire, Lesotho, Nepal, Niger, San Marino, Somalia, and Eswatini.
State Duma (the lower house of parliament) Speaker, Vyacheslav Volodin, recently remarked that western foreign enterprises would soon be replaced by Asian businesses. According to Volodin, foreign companies need to make up their mind about their activities in Russia. “The crucial thing is to have certainty. If they are ready to continue their work, we won’t kick anyone out as our country is open, we welcome investment in our economy,” Volodin emphasized.
Experts contacted by IDN acknowledged that SPIEF’22 is seriously targeting Eurasian countries including the former Soviet republics as Russia’s policy is to strengthen the Greater Eurasian Union. The new reality emphasizes the need to support the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which will consist of separate sub-regional partnerships, a kind of building blocks of the future pan-Eurasian building, based on the common interest of participants and mutual technological, logistical, and infrastructure proposals.
“Uniting the efforts of Eurasian states to solve global problems and support their economies during the difficult period of the coronavirus pandemic has already shown its effectiveness. Today the world faces new challenges and threats of fragmentation, which can only be overcome through partnerships that are both based on mutual interests and focused on sustainable development.
“In the long term, the countries that will be able to build the most favourable relationship with each other, creating the foundation for a future Greater Eurasian Partnership, will win,” said Andrey Slepnev, a member of the Board (Minister) on Trade of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
At the end of last year, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) turned 30. Integration within the CIS has reportedly proved its viability. “Today the CIS is not just a platform for dialogue, but a real working instrument to support and develop historically established trade, economic and humanitarian ties,” said an official source.
In the post-Soviet space, various integration formats, such as the Union State of Russia and Belarus and the Eurasian Economic Union, operate at the same time. However, they do not exclude but complement each other on multilevel and multispeed integration, offer partners the opportunity to choose business directions in the Commonwealth.
“All unions in the post-Soviet space aim to develop broad multilateral cooperation among countries. Today, the role of integration processes in economy is becoming more important for overcoming negative consequences of the pandemic and for building new economic models under new conditions,” said Sergey Lebedev, Chairman of the Executive Committee – Executive Chairman of the CIS.
During the sessions, experts will discuss whether the post-Soviet space can be viewed as a kind of a global laboratory for integration processes. They will debate what the place of these processes is in global economic relations, what is progressive integration for post-Soviet countries, and which areas of interaction within the CIS should become key in view of these integration processes and the overall foreign policy and economic situation in the region and the world.
The first track entitled “The New Economic Order: Responding to the Challenges of the Time” will hold sessions on restoring the economy and international cooperation under the SCO, BRICS and the Eurasian Economic Union. Other topics under this track are dedicated to the global trade transformation and business efficiency in the new economic reality.
The second track “The Russian Economy: New Objectives and Horizons” is dedicated to the challenges facing the country. Its sessions will cover the transition from a crisis relief agenda to boosting the long-term potential of the economy, as well as the development of the Russian financial market, research and technological space, and the country’s fundamental industries.
“Global challenges we are facing now set new rules. New challenges always mean new opportunities. This agenda covering all the key areas of the country and state development only proves that SPIEF will once again bring together representatives of the Russian and international business communities, government agencies and public organizations in search for opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and partnership,” emphasized Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to Vladimir, President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee.
Discussions under the track “Modern technology for Humanity: Building a Responsible Future” will cover topics of international cooperation in science, digital sovereignty and security, healthcare digitalization, and ethics of technology.
Participants in business sessions under the track “Investment in Development as Investment in People” will address cultural codes of the new reality, human capital development, as well as new skills and employment models in the post-COVID world. Still other sessions under this track will cover the development of creative industries, sports and education.
SPIEF will also host its traditional country-based business dialogues with the representatives of business communities from Africa, Middle East, Egypt, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, China, Latin America, Belarus, Europe, and the EAEU–ASEAN business dialogue.
The SPIEF is held annually, and since 2006 it has been taking place under the patronage and with the participation of the President of the Russian Federation. In the meanwhile, as a direct result of the “special military operation” launched on February 24, Russia has come under a raft of sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada, European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and a host of other countries.
* Kester Kenn Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to IDN. During his professional career as a researcher specialising in Russia-Africa policy, which spans nearly two decades, he has been detained and questioned several times by federal security services for reporting facts. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted in several reputable foreign media. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 May 2022]
Photo: The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2019. Source: SPIEF’22
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