It was a gutsy move when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev invited the APEC CEO Summit participations to Vladivostok for the September 2012 meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Don’t get us wrong as we like Vladivostok, but frankly, other than water and mountains, when compared side by side with Honolulu the two places might as well be on different planets.
Vladivostok could use the exposure, along with a healthy infusion of infrastructure improvements. The city and region could be developed into a great tourism opportunity for Russia’s Far East, but everything from roads to hotels and sightseeing amenities would need to be brought up to at least European standards, and hopefully someday Western standards, for that kind of tourist opportunities to be realized.
Until September 2012 however, the focus this week was on Russia’s accession to the WTO, the prospects for economic cooperation with Japan, increasing deliveries of Russian gas to China, and measures to stabilize the situation in the eurozone.
During the summit President Medvedev was asked what the WTO would mean for Russia and if he expected the same rapid growth for this country as was the case when China joined the WTO? Mr. Medvedev replied, “I also hope that this step will represent a very beneficial change for Russia’s economy, despite the fact that we have been preparing for it for quite a long time, and that a number of Russian companies have certain difficulties and concerns. However, our policy has remained unchanged. We believe that Russia’s accession to the WTO is long overdue. We are ready for it and pleased that, following joint efforts, we will hopefully be able to complete this process in the very near future.”
When asked about Russia’s economic focus on natural resources at the expense of developing other opportunities for growth, the President answered by stating, “Russia cannot be a country where only one part of the economy functions and naturally the WTO will promote the development of our economy and diversification of our companies. But of course here we must focus and rely on ourselves in the first place, not on membership in international organizations.”
Reporters asked if WTO membership would force Russia to create a favourable investment climate and adhere to the rule of law especially in the areas of protectionism and bending the rules in making it hard for non-Russian companies to compete in Russia. Mr. Medvedev admitted the validity of such criticisms, saying “This is accurate criticism. I would even add: other countries do not always comply with the rules either. And in cases where they are not observed, it is usually incumbent on the courts to deal with this. And this is perhaps the most important field where we need to devote our attention.”
President Medvedev added that the WTO will help improve the competitiveness of Russian companies and he expects formal membership to take place soon. He also spoke of creating a climate that is more open to outside investment.