12:07 GMT +321 January 2020
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    The West needs to lift sanctions against Russia if it wants to foster global economic growth, as well as counter the economic weight of China, Professor Giulio Sapelli told Sputnik Italia.

    Last week's St. Petersburg Economic Forum was the most popular ever, with a record number of participants from 143 countries taking part.

    Among other leading economies, companies from Italy were widely represented at the forum. Giulio Sapelli, Professor of Economic History at the University of Milan, told Sputnik Italia that the stronger bilateral economic ties somewhat compensate for Russia's absence from the G7 summit in Sicily last week.

    "Russia and Italy never ceased to have a relationship; there has always been a history of cooperation with Eni. In addition, many medium and small enterprises with long and excellent relations with Russian organizations took part in the forum. Italy strengthened its presence this year, which can only be reassuring. It is a kind of counterbalance to the absence of Russia at the G7 summit in Taormina," Sapelli said.

    "I think the forum is important to reduce tension. It is an already traditional event that could lead to the lifting of sanctions. I recently read an interview in the Financial Times with Andrei Kostin, head of one of the Russian banks, and I was amazed at his words. He talked about the problems facing the bank and stressed that one can't continue to hope for an end to the crisis and a return of the world economic growth at the same time as imposing sanctions. The forum is a good start. I think both France and Germany are also actually against the sanctions policy," the economist said.

    The key themes for discussion at the forum included the search for a "new balance" in the global economy, and the impact of Industry 4.0, the current trend towards automation, the internet of things and data exchange in manufacturing.

    According to Sapelli, the recent election of Donald Trump on a protectionist platform is a symptom of long-term problems in the global economy.

    "As concerns the world economy, Trump has brought a long-standing problem to the surface. For 20 years we have not concluded multilateral treaties, only bilateral agreements. The US has become impoverished because of the excesses of the financial sector, which does not lead to the creation of jobs and income. The budget deficit is a vicious circle that Trump wants to break. Everything depends on whether he succeeds in bringing industry to the forefront and shifting the financial sector to the background," Sapelli said.

    While China is tipped to become the world's leading economy amid the US decline in manufacturing and its retreat from military alliances across the globe, the expert is gloomy about the consequences of China's global power. Far from sanctioning Russia, he thinks the US should seek a global partnership with Moscow.

    "I believe that a multipolar world is impossible, it has to be either unipolar or bipolar. The best situation would be bipolar, since Russia is a Eurasian country, and the US is between the two oceans. I'm talking about the US and Russia with Japan, which is an ally of the US, but, unfortunately, there appears the third player – China. China is a country that pretends to be liberal. I have a very bad opinion about China. Only together, could Russia and the United States stop China. The only salvation of the whole world, not just Europe, would be a stable alliance between Russia and the United States," Sapelli asserted.

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    global finance, economy, St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Saint Petersburg, Russia, Italy
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