John Bonar, A British businessman and long-time friend of Russia joins the program.
To the question why are you investing money into a place on the Far Eastern side of Russia?, John says: ‘It's an amazing place. Water inlets and bays break up the city centre. Hills tower over the harbour, the central part of the city retains its pre-Soviet character… Vladivostok can be seen as Russia's window on Asia. This is the hub that is being used since the APEC summit in 2012. It's a bridge from Russia to Asia. The fast-growing markets of Korea, and China are all nearby. China is incredibly important because it has a huge, long border with Russia…"
John sees Vladivostok's immediate future as being connected with what happens on the Korean Peninsula. "If differences between the two Koreas are amicably resolved, borders are opened, and the railway reconnected, then the potential is huge. The backbone of Russian railways is the Trans-Siberian, billed as the longest railway in the world with over 9000 kilometres of track, linking Moscow to Vladivostok… The rail link to North Korea from Vladivostok could reopen; it's there already." If this rail route is opened up, host John Harrison adds, South Korea will be able to export its goods to Western Europe via the Trans-Siberian, something which would bring tremendous opportunity to Vladivostok. Russia's close proximity with China is another factor. As John says: "It is relatively easy to drive from Vladivostok to HeiLongjiang Province in North East China. Suifenhe the Chinese border town with Russia is dedicated to trade with Russia. They process Russian timber there, for example. They ship house panels, complete house kits across to Vladivostok where they are put onto ships to South Korea and Japan. Business is booming, particularly after a relaxation of the visa regimes with ASEAN and APEC countries. Then there is the planned undersea tunnel that will link South Korea to Japan, which would join the Japanese export market to the transit system, and go all the way to Germany and Europe."
John sees the geopolitical mudslinging that is going on at the moment between the West and Russia, as being a possible advantage to business people: "I think the geopolitical tensions, the sanctions, the shouting matches going on in the House of Commons in London, and the Senate in the United States, these are driving down the cost of the ruble and driving down the cost of land and property across Russia, but very importantly in the Primorye region (Far eastern maritime region of Russia's Far East) which is currently, frankly, under-developed. There are a lot of bargains to be had, such as green field sites. There's a lot going on. The biggest casino in Russia is now outside Vladivostok…" John also goes some way to dispelling myths about problems which foreign business people experience in Russia and describes how straight forward and transparent it has been to carry out due diligence on his projects in Vladivostok. He also describes what he calls an "impressive" Russian government scheme whereby Russian entrepreneurs are being called on to share their knowledge and experience in the development of the area.
John outlines the major Russian government agencies dealing with investment into this region, for large scale investments and also suggests some ways in which small to medium sized investors can participate in this exciting market, such as ‘Vostok Projects'.
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