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COVID-19 Economic Recovery: 'Our Companies Will Do as Well as Russia Does', Says AmCham Russia CEO

© Sputnik / Aleksandr Galperin / Go to the photo bankAmCham Russia President and CEO Alexis Rodzianko During Interview With Sputnik
AmCham Russia President and CEO Alexis Rodzianko During Interview With Sputnik - Sputnik International
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As most businesses headquartered in Moscow, including foreign firms, remain on COVID-19 lockdown, the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia has moved most of its activities online and is focusing on the post-coronavirus strategies of its members.

The organisation, which has been advocating for the interests of international businesses since 1994, has set up webinars and discussions that have included a session on the coronavirus’ impact, the response to the pandemic and  the post-crisis world, and held regular virtual meetings with American diplomats, as well as with Russian government officials.

According to AmCham Russia President and CEO Alexis Rodzianko, at the moment it’s hard to sum up all the damage caused by the coronavirus, while the pace of recovery of the chamber’s member businesses in the coming months will depend on the state of the country’s economy.

Sputnik: AmCham Russia has over 500 members, and, judging by the calendar of events on your website, there’s a lot going on even during the COVID-19 lockdown. What have been the highlights of your activity since most businesses in Russia went on lockdown?

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Alexis Rodzianko: Well, the highlights of the past couple of months, I guess, are that we have continued our work and have been able to use these remote technologies, thankfully they are with us now, at this time. A lot of our members have taken advantage, so the degree of involvement, the number of people signing up – and the percentage of people who have signed up and who actually attend the webinars – has been very high, probably higher than in a normal year when we would have been doing physical attendance events.

Sputnik: There are many theories on how the world is going to change once the pandemic is over. What is your forecast when it comes to adapting to “the new normal” as opposed to returning to “the old normal”? What are the main challenges that AmCham Russia’s members will be dealing with in the coming months?

Alexis Rodzianko: My opinion is that “the new normal” is going to be an extended process of returning to “the old normal”, because, I think, people were pretty happy with the way things were and would like to see them that way again. What are the challenges? Well, the challenges are going to be: what effect does this have on the economy? What effect, ultimately, does this have on businesses? To what extent is the damage to the economy long-lasting and deep?

That will, of course, affect our companies, their ability to participate with us, and their operations in general. So, I think our concern is how quickly we’re going to come out of it as an economic entity. Our companies will do as well as Russia does: if Russia comes out quickly – our companies will come out of it quickly as well. If not – then the damage will be longer-lasting. 

Sputnik: Some investors say that there will be a speedy recovery for most businesses after the restrictions are lifted. Do you think there is such a possibility, or will the process be rather slow?

Alexis Rodzianko: Well, the amount of money that has been pumped into the economy, especially in the US, is enormous. The liquidity boost, the low, near-zero interest rates mean that there is money. The question is how it’s distributed, and how it will affect demand, and, ultimately, how will businesses be doing coming out of it. Certainly, I don’t want to confuse my expectations and my hopes, but my hope is that my expectations are closer to my hopes, which is that we will come out of it quickly.

Sputnik: We saw an exchange in humanitarian shipments between Russia and the US – countries that have both suffered heavily from the pandemic. Do you think that with a common enemy like the coronavirus, the two nations will be able to forget about their recent disagreements – at least to some degree?

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Alexis Rodzianko: I’m less optimistic. I think that the countries did demonstrate that they can work together – that’s important. Any kind of effort to work together and ability to cooperate generates a little bit of trust, a little bit of good feeling. And there’s been too little of that in the past. So, in that sense I think it’s a good thing that there was a chance to work together over a common enemy.

On the other hand, I think that the issues between the two countries will still be there. Maybe the COVID experience will serve as a catalyst for those discussions to be more constructive. I don’t think that the issues will go away, but possibly the ability to discuss them and work on solutions might be improved.  

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