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Old May 24th, 2018, 07:12 AM   #1
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International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg

Today the annual International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg has started. The Kremlin calls this event no less than ‘Russian Davos’.
Of course, this is not Davos in fact but in the face of harsh anti-Russian sanctions the scale and number of participants is impressive. The delegations from more than 100 countries are represented by several thousand participants of the Forum, including the leaders of France and Japan, the heads of the International Monetary Fund, Boeing, BP, Total, Siemens, Shell etc. One should take into consideration that all of them will have schedule meeting with Russian President Putin. Such an event is unlikely to be a breakthrough for Russia, but it seems to be a «breath of fresh air» for its economy.
Apparently, Moscow has great hopes on bilateral contacts usually taking place in the format of business dialogues. The special attention this time will be focused on the Russia-France, Russia-Germany, Russia-Japan and Russia-USA meetings. By the way, despite the hard criticism of the White House against Moscow's foreign policy, American businessmen at the Forum will be the most numerous and representative.
The Kremlin declares the purely economic agenda of the St. Petersburg Forum. However, the politic agenda runs clearly or veiled through many of its activities. Perhaps the brightest is the Russia-France dialogue on May 25, which main theme will be "the impact of changing geopolitical situation on the Russian-European business relations, Russia's relations with the EU and the possibility of removing mutual trade barriers and sanctions in the near future». Such an emphasis looks very symbolic due to participation of President Macron in the Forum and his meeting with Putin.
Russia's bilateral meetings with Germany and Japan are also of a high interest. According to a number of European experts, the desire of these countries to use the Forum to develop a dialogue with Moscow is based on their fears about the growth of Beijing's uncontrolled economic and political influence in the European Union and the Asia-Pacific region. An additional confirmation of this is the meeting between German Chancellor Merkel and Putin in Sochi held on the eve of the Forum and the expected arrival of Japanese Prime Minister Abe to St. Petersburg.
If we take all that into account the position of official Washington looks somewhat losing. On the one hand President Trump proclaims that he does not intend to impede the participation of American businessmen in the Forum, while the US ambassador Huntsman is preparing to take part in the Russia-US session for the first time since 2013. On the other hand, the White House without any apparent reason introduced another block of sanctions against Russian companies, which first of all hits at their American partners. As a result a paradoxical situation arises when the heads of American giants such as Exxon Mobil, Google, IBM, Visa, JP Morgan go to the Forum in St. Petersburg to discuss their problems with the Russian president, because the American president does not hear them.
Perhaps, official Washington should be more consistent in its statements and actions, and Trump and his team should more often and attentively listen to the interests of national business, forgetting about personal ambitions and political ratings.
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