Are British businesses ready to embrace positive attitude towards Russia since Brexit is on its way?
A delegation from the UK, who came to St. Petersburg to participate in the Russian-British Raw Materials Dialogue, aims to destroy the negative buzz surrounding Russia that builds up in the Western media.
The III Russian-British Raw Materials Dialogue was visited by politicians, businessmen and scientists of both Russia and the UK. The participants spoke on the need of joint efforts in reducing negative environmental impact of industrial activities, as well as they discussed if British companies would be ready to increase investments in the Russian economy. Multiple talks were also devoted to cooperation in the field of professional training and adoption of advanced scientific achievements by mining enterprises.
The opening remarks were delivered by Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the Mining University, who noted that investment in technology is the most important force of progress and, as a consequence, of the growth in human prosperity, regardless of the country. He also recalled that the UK had become a global financial hub capable of providing new opportunities for commodity-rich developing countries. At the same time, investments in Russian mining and oil & gas industries may potentially result in substantial gains or, to put it differently, cooperation in these areas is beneficial for both sides.
As Prof. Litvinenko noted, ”We should be aiming at intensification of our contacts. We do not have to be guided by what is written in the social media or press. Instead, we must increase academic mobility, provide students with opportunities for student exchange, restore former relations within the business community. This is the only way to build trust and together contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals. We need to overcome artificially created obstacles that are hindering our progress. The Raw Materials Dialogue that we are hosting here is actually one of the platforms that helps in doing so."
Trevor Lewis, Counsellor and Director of the International Trade Department at the British Embassy, also believes that British press are creating negative publicity surrounding our country and, in this way, discouraging investors from putting their money in Russian enterprises. As a result, business people in possession of free capital and who are willing to cooperate with partners from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities, instead decide to switch to the markets of Asia, Latin America or Africa.
As Trevor Lewis explains, ”I am well aware that Russia is a good market to invest. Here you have everything done to encourage investments in engineering or mining. There is very little known about your country in the UK though. Few people know that one can get from Moscow to St. Petersburg in an hour by plane or in three and a half hours by train. Therefore, the Raw Materials Dialogue is a great opportunity for businessmen from both our countries to get reliable knowledge about each other, to see for themselves what are our common interests. It is hard to underestimate the importance of these contacts as the world is changing and, in particular, a lot of attention is being paid to climate change now. The materials sector influences the climate, and that is why so we need to work together and do everything in our power to make the raw material industry cleaner but at the same time also more efficient.”
Top executives from 40 Russian and British energy and consulting companies arrived in Saint-Petersburg to participate in the Russian-British Raw Materials Dialogue - among them, PhosAgro, Russian chemical holding company listed on the London stock exchange, RCC (Russian Copper Company), Polymetal International, BP, Aggreko, Wardell Armstrong, SRK, as well as some others. As noted by Kirill Molodtsov, Aide to the Chief of Staff at the Presidential Executive Office of the Russian Federation, the development of business relations between our countries is not the sole purpose of the event.
He added, ”We are also working at intensification of collaboration in the academic sector, in the fields of academic exchange and inter-political relations. The most important for us is that both sides show interest in this work and realise that we need this communication. Talking about business relations, importance of the Dialogue becomes evident based on the perspective of approaching Brexit as deterioration of trade and economic relations between the EU and the UK is one of the likely outcomes following the demarcation of customs borders. In connection with this, any kind of interaction with third-party countries, which is the Russian Federation in this case, provides new opportunities for changing suppliers and expanding cooperation.”
The primary initiators of establishing the Russian-British Raw Materials Dialogue were Saint-Petersburg Mining University and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3). Four years ago, their executives signed a cooperation agreement on establishing the platform aimed at improving communication between business and science communities of Russia and the UK. Due to persistent political disagreements, nowadays the platform is basically the only significant event left within which British and Russian companies and institutions can discuss prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation and carry out particular projects.
As per Martin Cox, Managing Board Chair at IOM3, "Britain is entering a new era. Brexit is going to change the way we interact with the rest of the world and only time will tell whether we have managed to pass this test. However, both today and tomorrow we should address global challenges lying ahead of us. We must fight climate change, embrace principles of sustainable development, ensure a better future for our children. This can be done only by joining our efforts. That is why cooperation with the Mining University, which has enabled establishing such a credible and solemn forum as the Raw Materials Dialogue, is of such importance to us.”