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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More