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Highlights from St Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017 opened on June 1, 2017 under the slogan ‘Achieving a New Balance in the Global Economic Arena’.

The key themes of the Forum were: ‘Made in Russia: Creating a National Brand’, ‘Injecting Dynamism in the Russian Far East Economy’, ‘Destination Russia – Shifting Trends Towards Domestic and Incoming Tourism’, ‘Globalization Revisited: Is Every Country on Its Own Now?’, ‘The Development of the Legal Audio and Video Content Market’, ‘The Changing Economics of Transportation and Logistics’

Economy

Speaking about the economy, Putin highlighted the signs of economic recovery and growing consumer demand in Russia:

Russia’s GDP is growing for the third consecutive quarter. According to preliminary estimates, the economy grew by1.4 percent in April. Car sales and mortgage loans are on the rise, with car sales rising by 2.6 percent in January-April 2016. The inflow of foreign direct investment into the Russian economy amounted to $7 billion in the first quarter. Investments during the first quarter were up 2.3 percent overall. Putin stressed that the key challenge is to increase investment activity, primarily on the part of private businesses. To facilitate this Russia has updated federal legislation, and removed a number of bureaucratic hurdles.

During the first day of the Forum, on June 1, 174 agreements valued at a total of RUB 386.7 billion were signed (agreements whose amount does not constitute a commercial secret). The biggest two deals were: an agreement between St. Petersburg and the Eurasian Development Bank on participation in the construction of the Eastern Freeway for a total of RUB 150 billion, and an agreement between St. Petersburg and VTB Bank on the implementation of an investment project to build a high-speed city highway for a total of RUB 110 billion.

Leading Russian oil company Rosneft and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan have signed a number of agreements to expand cooperation. Rosneft will get access to an extensive regional transport system in Iraqi Kurdistan with a capacity of 700,000 barrels per day (bpd), the company said. It is planned to expand capacity to more than 1 million bpd by the end of 2017. Xavier Rolet, CEO of London Stock Exchange Group was very optimistic about economic growth in Russia, Europe, U.S., and China: “The prospects are good! The Russian economy has staged a recovery, showing 1.5% for 2017 and should reach 1.7-1.8% for 2018. Globally, the economy continues to recover. We see increased activity in the U.S., U.K. is resilient, China is outperforming, and even the Eurozone is staging a recovery.

On Russia’s Influence on the U.S. Elections

Megyn Kelly asked Vladimir Putin about Russia’s involvement in American presidential elections:

They say it’s the forensics, it’s the digital fingerprints, it’s the IP addresses, the malware, the encryption keys, the specific pieces of code—that all of them, all of them point to Russia, and none of them points to anyone other than Russia.

Putin’s response:

What fingerprints? Or whose prints? What are you talking about? IP addresses can be invented. You know, there are many specialists that can invent them. Your three-year-old girl could perpetrate such an attack. They can invent anything. And then they will blame someone else.

On Sovereignty

There are not so many countries in the world that have sovereignty. And Russia treasures the fact that we do have it.

Putin referred to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks at the Munich Conference that Europe is no longer able to rely on others and needs to take its fate into its own hands as a result of “long accumulated resentment” of not been a sovereign state and having to comply with what “masters who are far away” are ordering to do.

On NATO

Putin:

I you’re not intending to attack anybody, why increase your military spending?… NATO has already been talking about transformation … into a political organization, as the kind of an organization that creates the elements of stability in the world … so far we are seeing the way the military infrastructure is expanding and heading towards our borders.

On Syria

When confronted by Megyn Kelly about Russia’s involvement in Syria Putin responded:

We are not defending Assad – we are defending Syrian statehood to prevent it from turning into Libya, Afghanistan or Somalia.

Kelly kept insisting that there is evidence of chemical attack against civilians to which Putin responded: there is evidence of chemical attack but there is no evidence that it was done by Assad, none.

Furthermore, he asked

“why the United States objected to proper investigation of the attack? The answer is simple – it will reveal the truth of who is the actual perpetrator.” It is clear, said Russian president, that the attacks were staged as a provocation to dispose Assad.

On Paris Agreement

Talking about Trump’s decision to pullout the U.S. from Paris Agreement Putin joked in English: “Don’t worry, be happy.” He said that the panic surrounding Trump’s decision has been blown way out of proportion and there is still time before the agreement, which was signed in 2015, goes into effect.

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