ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
"To Make the Impossible Possible": Russia-Singapore Business Forum
RIA Novosti's Mikhail Tsyganov
This week Singapore hosted the Second Russia-Singapore Business Forum, which involved over 200 Russian companies.
During the first forum in March 2006, the two countries set a goal of increasing bilateral trade to US$1 billion within two or three years, but they ended up reaching $1.2 billion within a year, said Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref.
Singapore has become one of Russia’s five fastest-growing trade partners, the minister said, and now Moscow's goal is to increase trade with Singapore to at least $5 billion by 2015.
Russia is also eager to learn from Singapore how to trade and invest.
“What we lack today is your expertise in large-scale and targeted state investments, above all human investments,” Gref said, addressing an audience of leading officials and business representatives from the island state.
While at the first such event less than a year ago, the Russian side only mooted its plans, now Moscow is actively building infrastructure for six special economic zones, Gref said.
Also, “it has been decided to set up further seven tourist areas and our parliament is now considering a bill on port zones,” he added.
This year both sides are much better represented, and “the presence of small Russian companies” is particularly gratifying, he said.
“Perhaps that is the most important institutional change compared with last year’s forum,” Gref said.
An official spokeswoman for Troika Dialog, a leading investment company that co-sponsored the forum on the Russian side, told RIA Novosti that another highlight of the present meeting is a special session dedicated to an exchange of cooperation experience between Singaporean and Russian firms.
“For us, this is a very important and forward-looking venue, and we hope that in three to four years’ time all big Russian and Singaporean companies will include a note in their long-term schedules that March is the month of the business forum in Singapore,” she said.
Since 2000, bilateral trade has increased more than three-fold, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang said in the opening address.
"Russia has a long and distinguished tradition of excellence in science and technology. Today, Russia continues to be at the forefront of cutting-edge innovation."
"We certainly look forward to furthering science and technology cooperation with Russia," the minister said.
While the first bilateral forum aimed to demystify Russia, according to the chairwoman of IE Singapore, Euleen Goh, in the year following it Singaporean companies are showing greater awareness of the huge business opportunities in Russia and also making successful inroads.
According to her, real estate and retail currently look particularly attractive in promoting cooperation between the two countries.
In addition, though Moscow and St. Petersburg have traditionally served as the springboards into Russia, businesses have gradually expanded into other regions. Cities like Kazan and Samara in the west, Novosibirsk in Siberia, and Vladivostok in the Far East are developing very fast and hold lots of potential, the committee’s chairman said.
During the final special session German Gref and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, met businessmen from BRIC countries, i.e. Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Ms. Euleen Goh, chairman of International Enterprise Singapore, said the insular state has displayed its capacity to gather industry captains from the world’s four most promising economies.
“This does not mean that there is any single concept for the BRIC,” Gref told RIA Novosti after the Forum.
According to the Minister it's just that “these four countries are posting the world’s highest growth rates and will determine the pace of global development.”
“Just like Singapore, Russia perceives its future in openness,” Gref said.
“I hope Russia will join the World Trade Organization this year, and we want to propose rules of the game [for the WTO] that would serve the interests of developing countries,” the Russian Minister Gref said.
“I have been watching Russian developments since 1991, …and (believe) you are now stabilizing your country,” Lee said.
“The West often says that development must follow their own prescriptions, but I do not belong to those who think that democracy and the free market can solve all problems,” he said.
“Order, discipline, the rule of law and confidence in everyday life are essential,” he believes.
During his visit, Russian Minister has already discussed the possibility of attracting Singapore’s best companies to design Olympic facilities for Sochi, a Russian resort city on the Black Sea coast that is a candidate to host the 2014 Olympics, and facilities for a possible Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Vladivostok, on the Pacific coast.
The facilities in Sochi will be built on time, Gref said, because work is proceeding on them ahead of schedule. As for the Vladivostok summit, its presentation in Singapore has created significant interest.
“At the same time, we are trying to change Singaporeans’ view of Russia as a huge cold country with roaming bears and weapons arsenals,” Gref said.
After the Forum, Gref and the rest of the Russian delegation before leaving for home together with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew watched Ice-Skating Extravaganza by many Russian World and Olympics figure skating champions on Sentosa resort island.
"To make the impossible possible", was the theme of this brilliant show said Ruben Vardanian - the head of the leading Russian investment company Troika Dialog that was acting a co-organizer of the forum.