The 22nd St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2018 held, from May 24-26, 2018 under the slogan “Building a Trust Economy,” reached new heights, both in terms of scale and results. With its numerous achievements, it would be fair to call it an innovative, technological, and indeed breakthrough event. The key purpose of the Forum is to provide a practical tool for business, helping to overcome the barriers, both geographical and informational, dividing Russia and other countries.
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum demonstrated that Russia is a land of opportunity. The 17,000-plus participants arriving from 143 countries is a testament to that fact. Over the past few years, SPIEF has developed to become an international platform, with its main achievement being the creation of a space where the spirit of trust prevails. Trust is a key asset in the business world, and discussions at the Forum focused on this crucial aspect,” said Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee Anton Kobyakov at the event’s closing press conference.
Guests from every continent and representatives from international organizations such as the UN, IMF, OPEC, and others spoke ever more profusely on the need to operate in a single economic space and find new areas of common ground in a changing world. President of France Emmanuel Macron was one of the honored guests at the Forum. He commented that “Russia must have a leading voice in the Council of Europe.” He also expressed the belief that Russia and the EU’s united approach to the inviolability of underlying multilateral agreements in international politics was a key factor for the world today.
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe commented, “The slogan of our Forum this year is ‘Building a Trust Economy.’ It is my belief that we can deem Japan and Russia as together engaged in building this economy of trust… We now stand at a historical turning point; the path we should take and efforts we should make are all entirely clear. It is working for future generations in Japan and Russia. It is Japan and Russia becoming a major force for safeguarding and fostering regional and global prosperity for the Japanese and Russian peoples, further deepening their relationship, mutual trust, concluding the peace treaty and building up lasting peace and stability between our two nations.”
Speaking at the Forum plenary session, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, noted that “Russia has put in place an admirable macroeconomic framework – saving for a rainy day, letting the exchange rate float, introducing inflation targeting, and shoring up the banking system.”
“This year, the Forum has come to resemble a crossroads of civilizations. Only at SPIEF has everything been put in place to ensure that discussions are open, as opposed to politically charged. It is where participants from various countries and growing economies discuss economic issues. There is no place in the world other than SPIEF that provides such an opportunity, which is why we have seen the numbers of participants grow from year to year,” said Anton Kobyakov.
France and Japan took part in SPIEF 2018 as guest countries. This was not only reflected in the size of their delegations – with Japan sending 350 official representatives and 150 business representatives, and France 177 official representatives and 200 business representatives – but also in their special business and cultural programmes. The business programme included the traditional Russia–Japan business dialogue. A discussion on developing Russian-Japanese cooperation in the SME segment also took place. The Russia–France business programme included the “City of the Future” Trianon dialogue session and the “Industry of the Future” roundtable. A Japanese pavilion was set up at the SPIEF venue, which hosted seminars on the country’s achievements in economics, science, and technology, its regions, and national cuisine. A French pavilion was also open to visitors, which presented key areas of investment for developing business in Europe.
SPIEF 2018 incorporated over 150 business events across the Forum’s numerous venues. These events were split into four distinct themes: “Technology for Leadership,” “Harnessing Russia’s Growth Potential,” “Human Capital in the Digital Economy,” and “The Global Economy in an Era of Change.”
The Forum’s central event was the plenary session, featuring President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. He commented: “Today what we need are not trade wars, or even temporary trade armistices, but rather a fully-fledged trading world. The slogan of this year’s Forum in St. Petersburg is ‘Building a Trust Economy’. I am convinced – and experience bears this out – that the role of trust as a factor affecting development will grow further.”
Over a period of four days, more than 1,000 moderators and speakers, including international experts, took the floor to talk on socio-economic development, SMEs, transport, the environment, healthcare, culture, tourism, education, and science. The official opening ceremony took place on the first day of the Forum – 24 May. Welcoming addresses were given by Governor of St. Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko, and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Achim Steiner. Poltavchenko made assurances to Forum participants that Russia has been and will always remain a reliable partner. In total, 68 business events took place that day in various formats. Topics under discussion included digitalization, the future of the labor market, energy, and a breakthrough in the Far East. Participants at the Valdai Discussion Club session focused on the effect the crisis in international relations is having on the global economy and possible ways to resolve the standoff between Russia and the West. The first day ended with a discussion on smart cities.
Issues concerning international cooperation came under focus on the second day, which also saw a number of business dialogues between countries take place. Participants identified new opportunities for implementing joint projects, modern mechanisms by which to promote exports in overseas markets, and ways to cooperate on removing administrative barriers. The business programme for 25 May included 51 events. The highlight was the plenary session, featuring President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe, Vice President of the People’s Republic of China Wang Qishan, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde. Furthermore, country’s leaders conversed again during Russia–France, and Russia–Japan bilateral dialogues. Additionally, Vladimir Putin met with the heads of world’s information agencies and a held a meeting with the leaders of international companies.
Events took place as panel sessions, roundtables, and business dialogues. They provided platforms by which leading specialists, experts, and politicians could discuss topics such as the resources and economy of the Global Ocean, the potential of the Arctic, and the in-demand technologies of the future. The closing day of the Forum saw 41 events taking place, including 22 events held as part of the International Youth Economic Forum – a permanent SPIEF fixture for the younger generation. The day began with a business breakfast for representatives of the IT industry. According to those present, as much as 20% of global GDP today is tied to digital transformation, making it perilous to underestimate its impact. On the same day, American Chamber of Commerce in Russia and EY unveiled the results of a joint study on trade and economic ties between Russia and the USA. The B20 Regional Consultation Forum was a special event at SPIEF 2018 and saw participants discuss recommendations for G20 leaders for the forthcoming summit in Buenos Aires, which will take place this year from 30 November to 1 December. In what has now become tradition, SPIEF hosted the presentation of the results of the Russian Regional Investment Climate Index for the fourth time. Tyumen Region climbed five places to convincingly take the first position. Completing the top five were Moscow, Tatarstan, Leningrad Region, and Tula Region. SPIEF 2018 held a number of sessions and interviews on increasing life expectancy that brought in representatives of the Government of the Russian Federation, as well as Russian and foreign experts. Investing special effort in this area, the Roscongress Foundation strives to become the leading single platform for discussing national goals, objectives and priorities to improve the quality of life in Russia (in accordance with Executive Order of the President of the Russian Federation “On National Goals and Strategic Objectives for Development of the Russian Federation through to 2024” dated 7 May 2018). The global character of SPIEF was made even more apparent – and the communication platform even more attractive for talks – by the number of major projects and agreements that took shape. As of 30 May, 593 agreements had been signed at SPIEF, worth a total of RUB 2.625 trillion (counting agreements where the figures were not classified as commercial secrets).
Published in Melange intl. Magazine in July 2018.