Outcomes of SPIEF 2023
The 26th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum held from 14 to 17 June in Russia’s cultural capital has come to an end.
The Forum focused on developing business ties and expanding contacts with trade partners from the CIS, the Arab world, India, China, the EAEU, ASEAN and Latin America, which enable Russia to demonstrate economic stability despite the pressure of the tremendous sanctions. The SPIEF 2023 participants have embarked on building a new space of trust based on equitable trade partnership principles.
The Forum showed clearly that a new bloc has emerged of sovereignty-seeking countries, ready to build bridges of understanding and cooperation around the world. The main expectation from SPIEF 2023 was to outline a vector of international, national, economic and social objectives for the future.
“Over the 26 years since its inception, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum has established itself as a fully-fledged institution for national development. Participation rates and interest in the Forum have returned to pre-crisis levels, showing that international business activity is recovering. Over the four days, more than 17,000 participants from 130 countries took part in the SPIEF events in both offline and online formats”, said Anton Kobyakov, Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee.
The honorary status of guest country was accorded this year to the United Arab Emirates, whose delegation was headed by UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Among the high-level visitors who came to St Petersburg were the Presidents of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, the Republic of Armenia, and South Ossetia, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Cuba, and over 150 top officials, including heads of international organizations and associations, foreign ministers and heads of diplomatic missions.
The biggest delegations were from the UAE, China, India, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Cuba and the United States. More than 6,000 representatives of Russian and foreign businesses from over 3,000 companies located in 75 countries and territories took part in the Forum.
The Forum events were covered by almost 4,000 media representatives from Russia and elsewhere.
More than 900 agreements worth a total of RUB 3,860 billion were signed at the Forum (including 43 agreements with representatives of foreign companies, among them two with Italy and Spain. Here are the agreements whose value is not a commercial secret). The top three constituent entities of the Russian Federation in terms of total value of agreements signed are the Leningrad Region (30 agreements worth over RUB 900 billion), St. Petersburg (over 50 agreements worth over RUB 414 billion), and Krasnodar Region (24 agreements worth over RUB 331 billion). The biggest number of agreements was signed in industry and construction (206), regional social and economic development (185), and international and interregional cooperation (85).
The Forum’s central event was its plenary session, attended as usual by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian head of state focused on the economy, the special military operation, and aggressive actions by the West.
“The neocolonial international system has ceased to exist, while the multipolar world order, on the contrary, is getting stronger”, Vladimir Putin stressed. He pointed to the marked progress in use of national currencies in foreign trade. “Today, about 90% of our settlements with countries of the Eurasian Economic Union are in roubles, and more than 80% of those with China are in roubles and yuans. We are actively developing trade in national currencies with other countries, too. Our immediate neighbours, as well as the BRICS and SCO countries, are a priority”, the Russian President emphasized.
Vladimir Putin reiterated the course towards an open economy: “Despite all the difficulties of the past year, we have not turned to self-isolation. On the contrary, we have expanded our contacts with reliable, responsible partners in the countries and regions that are today driving the global economy”.
The Forum’s plenary session was also attended by Abdelmadjid Tebboune, President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, who said in his address that the world was facing a new undeclared economic war and urged “not to politicise the economy”. The Algerian President shared his vision of Russia’s role in the world and on the African continent.
SPIEF 2023 as a Forum of winners
In line with the Forum's main theme – “Sovereign Development as the Basis of a Just World: Joining Forces for Future Generations” – the discussions centred on unifying agenda.
Numerous discussions were structured into five thematic blocks: “The World Economy at a Global Turning Point”, “The Russian Economy: From Adaptation to Growth”, “Building Technological Sovereignty”, “Protecting the Population and Quality of Life as the Main Priority” and “The Labour Market: A Response to the New Challenges”.
The experts stated that the new world order and the new world economy offer Russia new strategic opportunities for business partnership rather than competition.
“Russia has emerged as the centre of the formation of a new world order, building it with its partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the BRICS and the EAEU. Partnership with the ASEAN countries is also developing. Thirty more countries now want to join BRICS and the same number wish to join the SCO. The number of EAEU observer countries is constantly growing. African countries are also showing a strong interest in cooperating. Cooperation with Arab countries is on the rise, too”, Anton Kobyakov, Advisor to the President of Russia, stressed at the concluding press conference of SPIEF 2023.
Almost a third of all discussions concerned the Russian economy: ensuring its sustainability, improving public administration, social support for the population, developing the national fleet, creating a favourable business and investment climate, fine-tuning the tax system through feedback, sovereign development of the Russian banking system, etc. The Horizon 2040 session featured scenarios and trends for Russia’s development in the global context up to 2040. The Forum has brought to light the full potential of domestic companies in various areas of the economy.
The Russian economy has successfully repelled the onslaught of global Western sanctions and Russian business is doing well without its former Western partners. Tellingly, more than half foreign companies have remained in Russia and continue operating.
According to Robert Agee, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, there are still friendly US companies operating in Russia, 35% of them saying they are expanding their business.
While putting a strain on the economy, the sanctions have also been good for it, triggering a healing and cleansing process and production of “antibodies”. Experts say Russia will see its economy grow this year, with optimists predicting 5% growth.
The defence and manufacturing, mechanical engineering and agro-industrial sectors can make a significant contribution to future economic growth. A major role is played by construction, especially large-scale reconstruction of Russia’s newly-acquired regions. Ambitious construction plans and fundamentally different strategic digital management of migration policy (an adaptation and language culture programme for migrants) are needed for this plan to work.
More than 200 events took place at the Forum’s sectoral and thematic platforms as part of the business programme. During the four days, more than 1,500 moderators, experts and speakers, including foreign ones, spoke on issues ranging from socio-economic development, the environment, healthcare, transport, culture and tourism to education and science.
In view of the geopolitical instability, the global economy is seeking to hedge risks, becoming more bloc-orientated and endeavouring to close in along national and allied contours.
The bubble of the global economy, which the US has stretched all over the world since the early 1990s, has now burst and the reformatting of the world economy is a painful process as ties are severed, so the experts say. The old world order that took shape over three decades following the tectonic changes of the 1980s and 1990s cannot be preserved and the world will no longer tolerate the dominance of the old European-American elites.
Sovereignty is a privilege of the strong
The word “sovereignty” was the key word on the programme's business agenda. Experts discussed issues related to global, military, food, energy, financial, technological, digital and cultural sovereignty.
Russia’s ability to handle the crisis confidently has raised its international standing as a champion of change in the emerging world order and one of the first nations to take up the fight for its global sovereignty.
As for military, food and energy sovereignty, Russia certainly has it.
The people, the army and now also domestic businesses remain united, reinforcing the country’s military sovereignty. Russia's patriotic business is rapidly being freed from dependence on and the influence of Western colonial shareholders.
The sovereign, mobilized economy proclaimed by Russia’s President and now being built by the country requires a strong resource base. The panelists observed that now, rebuilding the aviation industry no longer means having to export aluminum and titanium alloys “to sell on a Western trading platform, putting the proceeds in the pockets of Western shareholders and directors”. To establish our own industries, we will also need secondary professional education and higher education, young cities (The Roscongress Urban Hub discussion platform was launched at SPIEF for the first time), advanced communications and production facilities. Starting from the new school year, careers guidance will be provided every Thursday in all the country’s schools to inform schoolchildren about the most important domestic industries (the Professionalism programme’s experience with sectoral training, as well as its mentoring system, was recognised at SPIEF as a positive practice).
Russia is in the process of gaining financial sovereignty, too. The same geopolitical processes have called into question the traditional guarantors of the old system: the dual-currency basket and the gold standard. No single block of states should be able to control money flows to the detriment of other countries. This explains the current strong trend towards de-dollarization. The BRICS countries are already expressing a wish to create their own currency.
The search for ways to gain technological sovereignty continues. There are no countries that possess this sovereignty fully. Russia needs, first and foremost, to develop its own technology, expand its production and technological capabilities, and find its own solutions in critical areas.
Digital sovereignty: the digital economy has become an important element of the world’s social and political order. Systematic and consistent development of Russia’s own digital space and technologies is needed, alongside state regulation in the digital sphere, adaptation of global trends and corporations to the country’s sovereign needs, rather than vice versa.
Ensuring Russia's cultural sovereignty is one of the main objectives of state policy in this area. Concepts such as “historical memory”, “cultural heritage” and “creative industries” were discussed extensively during the Forum sessions. The highlight of SPIEF 2023 was the Soul of Russia International Festival of the Peoples of the North. Its discussion and cultural programmes were part of the events planned during Russia’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023. The Festival showcased the diversity of the cultural heritage of Russia's northern peoples. More than 5,000 people attended the Festival events.
Protecting the population and the labour market
The discussions helped frame social priorities in domestic policy. The speakers discussed the problems of consolidating public awareness through the prism of traditional values. They believe investment should be made in the family, and a prosperous family with many children should become the national idea. High-quality education, a healthy diet, decent medicine, high cultural standards and access to sports are essential for proper formation and development of the individual. The Prosperous Man – the primary objective of social policy and a key resource for the country’s development.
On 17 June, the Friends for Leadership international youth programme, created as a follow-up to the 2017 World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi, was granted special advisory status by the UN ECOSOC.
The SPIEF 2023 international agenda was determined by business dialogues with such countries as Algeria, Brazil, member states of the EAEU and ASEAN, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Latin America and the UAE (as a guest country).
The focus on Asian markets featured more prominently than ever at this year’s Forum. This topic was raised at sessions devoted to raising investment through Islamic banking, developing the halal products industry and the payment systems industry in Asia.
Foreign guests also took an active part in SPIEF sessions on regional cooperation. They discussed development plans for the SCO, international financial cooperation through BRICS and development of the North-South international transport corridor. Many international speakers from China, Tajikistan, India and other countries participated in the events by video streaming.
A large part of the discussion focused on development of the Arctic and the Northern Sea Route, reflecting the growing global and economic role of the Arctic region. The potential of the Far East and the Arctic was showcased at the stand “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue”. Leading experts, representatives of major companies and heads of federal and regional authorities discussed a wide range of issues from attracting professional staff to the Arctic and developing the Northern Sea Route to scientific cooperation, climate change, energy, tourism and the environment. One session was devoted to film production. According to the participants, it was the film industry that brought some RUB 9 billion into the region over the past few years. Filmmaking contributes to the influx of tourists and investment, infrastructure construction and conservation of species and culture. A major film series about exploration of the Northern Sea Route, “The Chelyuskin”, is currently being filmed in the Arctic.
In May this year, Russia successfully completed its two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The joint statement adopted at the Council’s 13th session in Salekhard on 11 May reaffirmed the partners’ commitment to constructive co-operation, stability and dialogue in the Arctic.
Public health as the most important economic resource
Issues related to public health were discussed during numerous Forum sessions and thematic events. These included medicine safety issues: accessibility of medicines, ensuring financial sustainability and technological independence of pharmaceutical production facilities, state guarantees of providing the public with medicines (at the ‘Ensuring Drug Security’ Russian Pharmaceutical Forum) and activities under the Healthy Life project involving demonstration of advanced scientific and innovative developments in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals. Around 200 leading health experts addressed the participants.
Physical education and sport constitute an essential element in the formula “public health and well-being of the individual”. Discussions about the future of sport were a prominent theme throughout the Forum.
Sport has withstood the sanctions pressure by responding with innovative super-formats in both domestic leadership sports and projects – Games of the Future, BRICS Games and Friendship Games. This was made possible by the strong support provided by Russian businesses, as demonstrated by the SPIEF sports and discussion programme. The Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation has decided to host a Bookmakers Forum as a platform for developing state policy in this area.
As in many other areas of life, coexistence of public and private capital is also necessary in sport. There is no doubt that sport is an excellent marketing tool. It is also a great tool for corporate politics. Moreover, it is potentially a great internal policy tool. Many regions must learn this from big business. And the successes of regional sports teams should be reflected in the KPIs of governors’ teams.
This year’s programme of sporting events was significantly expanded and carried out on a qualitatively new level. The SPIEF sports games were held in two cities in 18 sports. The hockey gala match was replaced by the Liga Stavok Roscongress Cup four-team tournament. The Roscongress Cup was held at the Gazprom Arena for the first time. The programme featured the debut of the Leaders’ Energy Badminton Tournament, the SUP Breakfast: (Ot)Lichny Peterburg, an equestrian polo tournament, the Roscongress Padel Cup, the Clean Games team green-cleaning competition, and the “We Are Together” run, where participants were able, for the first time, to use a guided tour format provided by Uralchem Run Factory.
Mendeleev Chess, an AI program, for the first time assisted the Forum participants in a simultaneous chess match with the renowned grandmasters Sergey Karjakin and Teimour Radjabov.
Sectoral and thematic events
One leading trend at the Forum exhibition was diversified use of interactive technology, including augmented reality (AR). Using the MARMA augmented reality service from the Roscongress Foundation, guests tested various ways of embedding digital objects into real-life settings (at Pulkovo, they interacted with a glamorous virtual assistant and, at the Forum venue, they were welcomed by Marty the Robot, a digital ambassador; over 300 visitors took part in an AR quest).
The cultural programme was rich and varied. Forum guests were treated to more than 50 events, including the St. Petersburg Seasons Festival of Culture, Art Fair 1703, classical music concerts, the Sails of Kronstadt Festival, and the exhibition “The Terracotta Army. China’s Immortal Warriors.”
The programme of the St Petersburg Seasons festival of culture combined plays and theatrical performances, visits to exhibitions and excursions, museums and concert halls of the city, which is rightly called the cultural capital of Russia. The highlight of the festival was the “Rock over the Neva” concert on Palace Square on 16 June, which brought together some 45,000 spectators: Forum participants, residents and visitors to the city. The concert headliner was the band Chizh & Co. A special guest was the band Jango with Alexey Poddubny.
The festival’s evening concerts featured performances by virtuoso accordionist Petr Dranga and rock musician Vyacheslav Butusov. Other events included fashion shows by Russian designers, a fashion show by Cyber Fashion Technology and an exhibition of paintings by the Russian Style project.
Expert analytical support
The Roscongress Foundation’s Information and Analytical System has continued to develop its Summary service, providing short analytical summaries of the discussions, describing key conclusions, problems and solutions voiced during the debates. A total of around 120 analytical summaries have been produced for SPIEF 2023. The results of the Forum will be summarized in a report entitled “Outcomes of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2023”. More than 100 experts from Russia’s leading universities and scientific institutions provided expert and analytical support for the Forum. Highlight quotes from SPIEF 2023 keynote speakers have been prepared.
Especially for the Forum, the Roscongress Foundation and its analytical partners prepared exclusive materials covering important issues on the agenda: analytical material “Russia and the UAE: Ways of Technological Cooperation”, the information and analytical digest “Russia and the United Arab Emirates: Potential for Growth and Cooperation”, information and analytical review “Immigration Policy of Russia and the UAE. Competitive Advantages in the Fight for Immigrants”, and the research “Regional Development Trends – 2023”.
All these studies are published in the ROSCONGRESS.ORG Information and Analytical System.
More than 100 organizations and companies partnered this year’s Forum. Title partners included State Development Corporation VEB.RF and State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom. General sponsor: VTB Bank (PAO). General partners: VK, Public Joint Stock Company Gazprom, Gazprombank, Gazprom Neft, Mir Payment System, NOVATEK, and Sberbank. The Forum’s official airline is PJSC Aeroflot – Russian Airlines. Strategic partner was Rosseti, PJSC. The official transport partner of the Forum was Russian Railways and the official car of the Forum – the EXEED VX.
Information support for the Forum was provided by general media partner Gazprom Media Holding, general TV partner Russian information channel “Russia 24”, general international news partner RT TV news network, general multimedia partner MIC “Izvestia”, general informational news partner RBC, general Internet partner Gazeta.ru, Lenta.ru, The Firm’s Secrets, and international media partner China Media Group. Media partners: NTV TV Channel, TASS, Interfax Group, Business FM radio station, Kommersant, Vedomosti, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Shkulev Media Holding, Publishing House “Argumenty i Fakty”, Holding 1MI, Moskovsky Komsomolets, Expert magazine and TV Channel 360°. The media partner and photo host agency was RIA Novosti.