News / Europe

Russian Economic Forum Shows Signs of Tension

James Brooke

It is called Russia’s Davos - an annual summer solstice gathering where foreign company heads mix and mingle under one roof in St. Petersburg.  With the British rocker Sting playing to the crowd, the Kremlin plans it as a lovefest for financial types. But this year, there was some love loss as sharp words were exchanged.  

Arriving by express train and charter plane, hundreds of corporate executives converged on St. Petersburg Thursday for their chance to meet Russian government officials in a more casual, relaxed atmosphere.

But as a cold rain blew in from the Gulf of Finland, some harsh words were heard at a packed panel on Russian-American economic ties.

U.S. Ambassador John Beyrle said Russia has a hard time persuading foreigners to invest their money here because Russians are taking their money out.

“The sustained net capital outflows this year alone are already above $30 billion.  That figure should alarm, should frighten everyone in this room.  Because it’s an indicator that things are not going in a direction we need them to go,” he said.

The U.S. ambassador then raised a sensitive topic - one that is not on the three-day agenda here. “Obviously the fight against corruption is job number one,” Beyrle said.

The U.S. envoy praised Russia’s recent passage of anti-bribery laws, but he said he was disappointed that the proposal for an anti-corruption panel was vetoed by organizers of what is officially called the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The ambassador also said that U.S.- Russia economic relationship remains anemic.  He said Russia only accounts for one percent of America’s international trade, and half of one percent of America’s foreign investment.

Hans-Paul Buerkner, president of the U.S. firm the Boston Consulting Group, said U.S. companies that persevere in Russia often earn big profits.

“Those who really see the potential in Russia, who make the efforts will be extremely successful and have done so.  And work very profitably,” Buerkner said.

The Russians also had their share of criticism.

Alexei Mordashov, majority owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel producer, said he received tax incentives to invest in American steel plants, but he encounters tariff barriers for his Russian-made steel products to the U.S. market.

Although, he says, he recognizes that the Obama administration is helping Russia on its application to the World Trade Organization, he complained that Russia first applied 18 years ago  - breaking China’s record of 14 years.

David Iakobachvili, president of the Russian-American Business Council, tried to smooth over the exchange of sharp barbs by calling for construction of a road and rail bridge across the Bering Strait, linking Siberia and Alaska.

The Russian businessman has good reason to have warm feelings about the United States.  Last December, PepsiCo agreed to pay $3.8 billion for Wimm-Bill-Dann, a Russian food and beverage company controlled by Iakobachvili.  It was the biggest American investment in Russia since last year’s economic forum in St. Petersburg.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs