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    St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2019

    International Cooperation Despite Sanctions: Highlights of First Day of 2019 SPIEF

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    The first day of St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) yielded numerous contracts, agreements and statements.

    Delegations from nearly all EU countries, as well as senior officials from Cambodia, Vietnam, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, the Central African Republic and Ivory Coast, came to St. Petersburg to take part in various business sessions. Here are some of the most important moments of the first day:

    Putin on Sanctions

    Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the Forum and made several important comments on international affairs.

    Speaking to representatives of international news agencies, Putin condemned sanctions against Venezuela and accused the US of fighting against the Venezuelan people.

    “You can work with anyone – with acting government, with the opposition, but you cannot interfere in internal affairs. Especially, one must not apply sanctions,” Putin told journalists. “It is usually the millions of common people who have nothing to do with the government that suffer the most.”

    Putin promised to remove sanctions against the EU in response to similar actions by the European Parliament.

    “We're watching the EU with interest and of course, hoping that something will change. If things do change, we will respond immediately and symmetrically remove economic restrictions of a retaliatory character implemented against the EU,” he said.

    Russia, Germany Signs Economic Agreement

    Russian Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin and his German counterpart Peter Altmaier agreed to sign a declaration of intentions on a partnership for effectiveness, the Russian-German Foreign Trade Chamber told reporters.

    This will be the first economic agreement signed between Moscow and Berlin since the Ukrainian Crisis of 2014.

    According to the Foreign Trade Chamber, the agreement will enable Russian delegations to make visits to German factories to exchange experience on labour effectiveness management. Currently, labour effectiveness in Russia is half of that in Germany, the Chamber said.

    St. Petersburg Investment Deals

    The city of St. Petersburg used the first day of the forum effectively, striking almost $1.5 billion worth of agreements for the city, according to the governor’s press office. Approximately $1.3 billion will be invested by Russian Railways with money being directed towards the renovation of the entire St. Petersburg railway junction.

    Some $153 million will be invested by US-based EKS Group toward the building of a perinatal centre in St. Petersburg.

    Approximately $30.6 million will be invested by UK-based International Food Market, Ltd. with funds going to the construction of an agricultural wholesale distribution centre, the governor’s office said.

    UAE Company Wants Control of Russian Container Operator

    UAE-based DP World – one of the world’s biggest port operators, expressed interest in buying controlling shares in Transcontainer, a Russian container shipment operator, currently owned by Russian Railways. Auction terms do not allow for direct participation by DP World but entering a consortium with a Russian company is a possibility, said Russian Vice Prime Minister Maxim Akimov to reporters.  Transcontainer's controlling share package is estimated at $550 million.

    Russia to Keep Oil Production Stable

    Speaking at the forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he considers oil prices of $60-65 per barrel acceptable for Russia. Earlier, Vagit Alekperov, the chairman of Lukoil said he considers a $60-$70 per barrel price comfortable and added that currently there is no needs to increase oil production, as oil prices tend to fall.

    “I hope our Ministry of Energy will conduct negotiations with Oil Ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iraq and will come to a weighed position,” Alekperov said.

    The St. Petersburg Economic Forum will continue for two days and conclude on Saturday evening. The forum has been held since 1997. Over the last 20 years, SPIEF has become a major global platform for members of the business community to meet and discuss key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole.

    Russia, China Opens Second Energy Business Forum

    Delegations of two countries attended the opening ceremony of the Second Russian-Chinese energy Business Forum as part of SPIEF.

    “Cooperation between China and Russia is continuing and intensifying.

    In 2018, energy trade exceeded 40 billion USD, which amounts to roughly 40% of bilateral trade”, National Energy Administration Director Zhang Jianhua said during the ceremony.

    “Russia is a major supplier of hydrocarbons to global markets, and the figures for 2018 show that Russia has become China’s largest partner in the supply of oil, coal, and electricity”, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said.

    Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin noted that Sino-Russian hydrocarbon cooperation increased amid growing pressure from Western nations, which he called a sign of weakness.

    “Russian-Chinese cooperation is developing amidst a new flare-up in trade wars. The main reason for trade wars are the weakness of other partners and their attempt to gain a unilateral advantage by diminishing competition”, Sechin said.

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