MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) WTO membership won't help in global trade wars - expert/ Nord Stream project reaches pan-European level/ Norwegian fish exports to Russia may be cut/ Transneft to raise oil transit tariffs/ English musical about Abramovich to promote Russia
WTO membership won't help in global trade wars - expert
The Russian government tirelessly keeps trying to negotiate the closed doors of the World Trade Organization, while other nations are closing their borders to commodities and investment.
WTO membership will be of no help to China in global trade wars unleashed today, writes Konstantin Simonov, director general of the Foundation for National Energy Security, in Vedomosti. Western countries, which only yesterday were teaching us about investment transparency, have now conceived a new theory distinguishing between "good" and "bad" investments. The latter, according to them, include investments made using government funds from Russia, China and the Gulf nations. They probably have good reason for suspecting China of supplying counterfeit and low quality merchandise; but accusations that proceeds from oil and gas sales are no better than narcodollars cannot be justified.
The reason behind this policy is clear. The world is on the verge of yet another redivision, and therefore key geopolitical players are putting all sorts of barriers to prevent competitors from entering their economies, the expert says. If that does not help, as the deficit of resources persists, they may embark on a new "crusade," elbowing their way to sources of key raw materials.
Overall, the world spends more money on armaments today than it did during the Cold War. The U.S. military budget approved for fiscal 2008 is impressive - $460 billion. While the extension of the U.S. "missile shield" to Europe is such a high profile affair, no one is paying much attention to very similar developments around China. The U.S. is augmenting its military assistance to Israel and Taiwan and arms deliveries to the Gulf region. Britain has launched a program to renovate the nuclear component of its defenses. And army modernization is in full swing in China. Japan is working on amendments to the constitution legalizing an army and making huge investments in new weapon systems such as unmanned aircraft, Simonov says.
In Russia, such speculations are considered inappropriate. Our intellectuals have come across the term "alarmism" in a dictionary, and are labeling anyone who even tries to cite facts suggesting the possibility of a global conflict, the expert writes.
Nord Stream project reaches pan-European level
The Dutch company Gasunie is expected to join the Nord Stream gas pipeline project on November 6. It will be Gazprom's fourth and last partner in the most expensive gas pipeline construction project in Europe which, apart from investments, will give Gazprom political guarantees for its implementation. The project worth 5 billion euros is becoming more and more popular: on November 2, the Czech Republic announced its plans to build a branch of the Nord Stream pipeline.
Nord Stream is a joint project of Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom (51%) and Germany's BASF and E.ON (24.5% each).
Mikhail Korchemkin, director of the US East European Gas Analysis agency, calls Gasunie a political ally of the Russian gas monopoly. It is important for Gazprom to receive permits as soon as possible, and the Netherlands might be of great help in this matter, he said. Yekaterina Kravchenko, an expert with BrokerCreditService, notes that the fourth partner in the project is, above all, an extra guarantee for Gazprom to get access to the EU end consumer markets. Sergei Kupriyanov, Gazprom's spokesman, confirmed that Gasunie's participation enhanced Nord Stream's level from a bilateral Russian-German project to a pan-European one.
Actually, this means a big package transaction in which a number of Dutch companies will participate, apart from Gasunie. In exchange for access to the project, the Dutch companies are ready to offer access to inter-European infrastructure projects to Gazprom which is not willingly accepted in EU projects of this kind.
The Netherlands will not be able to receive Nord Stream gas directly: it will have to use the German pipeline system first. The Czechs decided to use the same scheme after they expressed concern over gas supplies to the country last week. As a result, Germany's RWE has announced plans to build a gas pipeline between the Krkonose Mountains in the Czech Republic and Waidhaus in Germany. It will be linked to the OPAL gas pipeline, the Nord Stream German branch. Alexander Medvedev, deputy chairman of Gazprom's Management Committee, promised to meet the Czech Republic's requirements for gas as soon as the Nord Stream construction is completed.
Norwegian fish exports to Russia may be cut
Only seven out of more than 40 Norwegian companies will be allowed to export fish to Russia beginning December 15.
The Russian industrial safety watchdog (Rostechnadzor) said in a press release that the embargo was being introduced following an inspection of Norwegian companies by Russian specialists.
Market analysts believe that this would have grave economic consequences for Norwegian exporters.
According to official statistics, in 2006 Norway exported 197,300 metric tons of fish, including herring, mackerel, haddock and capelin worth $198.6 million.
Experts said that the sanctions would not reduce fish supplies on the Russian market.
Vladislav Kochetkov, an analyst with the Finam investment company, said: "The market will be divided, with Norwegian companies approved by the regulator increasing supplies, and Russian producers boosting output."
He said that the market re-division would raise prices of these fish by 5%-10%.
The embargo could be a result of officials' desire to support Russian producers, which are working at 30%-50% of their capacity. Some experts said that Norway often supplied fish illegally caught in Russian territorial waters and transferred abroad.
Rostechnadzor indirectly confirmed the version by saying that fish with falsified documentation were often supplied to Russia.
Business & Financial Markets
Transneft to raise oil transit tariffs
Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft has sent a request to the Federal Tariff Service (FTS) to raise transit rates by more than 15% in 2008.
Experts say this makes sense, as the completion of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline will require additional investment. High oil prices will earn the oil companies enough revenue to compensate for the increased transit expenses.
The FTS said Transneft's request included explanations for its tariffs, and the new tariff requires additional calculation, but preliminary data indicate it will increase more than 15%.
This is considerably higher than analysts expected. Analysts with the investment company Troika Dialog expected an increase of 10.3% in 2008 and 6.5% in 2009.
The FTS board will decide on the increase in late November or early December. Transneft is raising the tariff to make up for spending on investment projects to develop new attractive oil routes.
Last week, Nikolai Tokarev, the new head of Transneft, said the implementation of the first stage of the ESPO pipeline could take three or four months more.
Natalia Milchakova, head of fundamental analysis at the Otkrytie financial corporation, said: "A 15% increase would be reasonable due to the extended construction period, which calls for additional investment."
The increase will not affect oil companies, because oil prices are growing now, she said.
If the FTS grants Transneft's request, it will raise the pipeline monopoly's investment attractiveness.
Vladimir Vedeneyev, an analyst with Troika Dialog, said: "In this case, we will have to upgrade its financial indicators for next year and a longer term."
English musical about Abramovich to promote Russia
The plot of a new British theater project about Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich is not what makes it so unusual. If Jesus Christ once was the central character of a musical, why can't a well-known billionaire? The project writers, however, have an ambitious plan to bring their show to Russia as well, which will not be easy, judging by the script.
The idea to stage a musical about Abramovich emerged more than three years ago. Initially, the writers planned to make Vladimir Putin a central character along with Abramovich. The project came to a halt. Now they have changed the script to mention Putin less, but to bring another tycoon, Boris Berezovsky, to the forefront instead. Does a show promoting a country's most wanted businessman, with 11 criminal charges against him and six arrest warrants issued in his absence, have a big chance of success? It is difficult to say.
On the other hand, Russia might even benefit from the project if the musical is eventually put on stage here, even if someone is disgusted by certain twists in the storyline. The production could be a full-fledged promotion act. Suffice it to recall how the Vatican once ardently condemned Jesus Christ Superstar. But due to that production a lot of people, including Soviet atheists, discovered the content of the Bible. Why can't a musical about Abramovich promote Russia?
Still, it is depressing that a business tycoon cannot do more for Russia than become a central character in a musical. Advocates of building up impressive private capital in a very short term usually assign a different role to oligarchs. They are supposed to be more effective. It is certainly true that there are no alcoholics at privately owned plants now, and all accounts are made according to IFRS. But there are no advanced technologies either.
Oligarchs are expected to lead a business expansion abroad for the sake of the country and its people - wouldn't it be great if Alexei Mordashov, who bought Arcelor, registered the world's largest metallurgical company in his native Cherepovets and drew profits from all over Europe? He doesn't. All that is left to Russia are promoting shows, which is at least better than nothing.
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