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

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim 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.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid