Refusal of some foreign top managers to come to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) under governments’ pressure will not affect the event’s economic section, believe the experts polled by the ITAR-TASS Political Analysis Center. In most cases, this will not hamper the economic ties of foreign businesses with Russia.
According to Russian Deputy Minister of Economic Development Sergei Belyakov, a total of 15% of participants on the original list of those invited have changed their mind. The New York Times reported pressures from the Obama Administration played its role. As a result, senior executives of Visa, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Conoco Phillips and Caterpillar refused to visit the forum offering different excuses.
“What we see is rather a kind of defiant behavior than businesses’ real response,” said political scientist, professor of the St. Petersburg State University Dmitry Gavra. A majority of those who decided to ignore the event will send less known proxies, he believes.
“There is a special term, GR [government relations], which describes business relations with the authorities,” said the expert. “It is a comprehensible curtsey that indicates business complies with political requirements and supports the government’s political course. At the same time, businesses are not going to abandon their economic interests and partners.”
In Europe, the top managers’ swap for lower rank managers can even be politically approved, Gavra believes.
“This is exactly the reaction expected by leaders like François Hollande or Angela Merkel. They are well aware that cooperation with Russia means tax revenues, jobs, employment etc. Even here, Europe typically tries to have its cake and eat it,” he said.
Mikhail Portnoy who is in charge of international economic affairs at the Institute for the US and Canada Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences also believes the forum’s economic section will not be affected.
“The situation is not as critical, because the businesses working in Russia on the basis of direct investments certainly do not want and cannot suddenly wind up their operations,” the expert said. “In all likelihood, they will formally obey the authorities’ request. Senior executives will refuse to come to send some workhorses instead.”
Portnoy is sure this will cause no principal interruptions to the forum’s work.
Experts believe the top Russian officials made the right decision to avoid refusing to visit the forum in this situation.
“First, it is important to send a signal to those players who will come, and this political signal is to be appreciated. Second, it is important to show that sanctions, non-attendance and so on are not as stinging a step to provoke our sharp reaction,” believes Gavra.
The forum will take place on May 22-24 under the motto “Building Trust in an Era of Change”. It will discuss risk management as a means to stimulate growth, and to tap Russia’s competitive potential, management of breakthrough technologies and adaptation to changing environment.