Ahead of this year’s Russian-British Business Forum on November 29, Boris Abramov, Russia’s Trade Representative to the UK, says the two nations are on the threshold of a new era of trade and economic relations.
Today, the Russian Federation is successfully expanding its trade with many different countries. Trade relations with the countries of European Union and the Asia-Pacific region are being rebuilt and developed. But especially telling, is the growth of trade with the UK. This is due both to the specifics of Russian-British trade and economic relations, and the fact that the British market and its partners traditionally react very sensitively to external signals and context, and in a good way, as we know, operate in a balanced and conservative manner, with an accurate assessment of the situation for the economic interests of their country.
Therefore, the growth trend of Russian-British trade, which reached 23 percent in the first eight months of 2017, is of great importance today and signals the prospect of a new era of trade between the two countries. Since 1920, when the Trade Delegation in London was established and the first contracts were concluded, the United Kingdom has been, and continues to be, a key trade and investment partner of modern Russia.
In the history of Russian-British trade, there’s been periods of both a recovery and a “cooling” of relations, but the two countries have always successfully complemented one another in trade and economic terms. Today, for example, the UK continues to occupy first place among Russia’s partner countries for trade in services, and the number of British companies entering the Russian market has approached 600.
We are on the verge of a new era in economic relations, conditioned by Brexit and the idea of expanding mutually beneficial trade. Almost all Russian and British companies cooperating with each other – which now employ more than 200,000 people – have continued to work successfully in recent years, without slowing down, adapting to new economic realities and strengthening the foundation of trust.
The current reserves for trade expansion are substantial. And they are connected with cooperation mainly in the non-primary sectors. For example, in 2017, the Russian entities leading in terms of growth of exports of goods to the UK include the chemical, metallurgy and textiles sectors. As for British industries exporting to Russia, the leaders are machinery, equipment and raw leather materials.
As for examples of current activities of British companies, some of them have expanded their presence in Russia, such as pharmaceuticals and construction equipment manufacturers. Over the past year, Russian manufacturers of oral care products, producers of roofing and thermal insulation materials, cement, developers of genetic tests and even a network of pizzerias have entered the British market. And this is despite the fact that the level of competition in many industries in the UK is very high.
Today, Russia has a positive trade balance with the UK: for the first 8 months of 2017, this figure was close to US$2.3 billion. So the trend of the last decade remains the same – Russia is selling more goods and services to Britain than Britain is to Russia.
As for tomorrow and possible new niche markets, experts see such areas as FinTech, IT and innovative production as the most promising prospects for cooperation. For obvious reasons, it is becoming ever more attractive for Russian regions to not just localise production, but to develop joint research projects and develop new products. In working with the UK, many commercial structures and representatives of the regions are interested in the development of technology transfers, in the joint implementation of infrastructure projects and in working on many other trade and investment ventures.
For businesses in both countries focused on international development, it is important to more actively search out business partners, to explore opportunities, and to consult… Both directly and through existing support institutions in both countries, through the establishment of personal contacts. One of the most effective official platforms for supporting and developing dialogue today, is the Russian-British Business Forum held in London under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation.
One cannot but agree with the expert assessments that the accumulated trust and variation of successful business ventures are an important prerequisite for the further development of trade and economic relations. However, building these relations and their future scale depends to a large extent on how quickly some persistent stereotypes and lack of information on available business opportunities are overcome. If progress is made here, it will be easier for business to focus on pragmatic trade, bringing profit both for the UK economy and for Russia.
The Russian-British Business Forum at London’s Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre is on November 29. Visit rbbf2017.com for details.