HOUSTON, Oct. 31, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Experts on Russia's economy and business leaders from the United States and Russia heralded the opportunities and highlighted the challenges in the bilateral economic relationship at the annual gathering of the U.S.-Russia Business Council (USRBC) in Houston this week. At the meeting, more than 200 representatives of business and government officials reviewed the crucial role business is playing in U.S.-Russia relations through increased trade and investment. Companies represented included ExxonMobil, Alcoa, Lukoil, Pfizer, EY, Renova, Ford, AbbVie, Coca-Cola, Chevron, PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, Visa, Abbott, TMK IPSCO, Deere, and Russian Railways.
Experts seemed to agree that structural and institutional reform in Russia could be on the horizon, but under different scenarios. Evgeny Gavrilenkov, Managing Director and Chief Economist at Sberbank CIB, the investment banking arm of Russia's largest bank, argued, "If the macroeconomic environment improves, then there is a greater chance that entrepreneurial activity will rise and create pressure on policymakers to transform the institutional framework." Nataly Nikolaeva, Acting President of Citi's Russian subsidiary, predicted steps forward in infrastructure development, privatization, and an improved legal framework for doing business. She posited, "The headwinds Russia currently faces could speed up structural reform and unleash Russia's immense growth potential."
Participants at the meeting discussed the evolving energy landscape and implications for continued U.S.-Russia cooperation, Russia's global integration including the status of its implementation of its WTO commitments and developments in the Eurasian Economic Commission, infrastructure development, and prospects for collaboration in innovation and healthcare, among other topics. Two agreements were announced at the meeting: The Houston Technology Center and Skolkovo Technopark signed a Cooperation Agreement and announced a reciprocal exchange of startups beginning this November, and the USRBC agreed to support a new initiative in Russia that aims to help global companies manage risk associated with third parties.
Klaus Kleinfeld, Chairman and CEO, Alcoa Inc., and Chairman of the USRBC credited the meeting with fostering better commercial relations between the United States and Russia. "The business community is leading the way to make sure bilateral commercial relations remain strong despite political challenges," he said. "With record participation at this year's Annual Meeting, the U.S.-Russia Business Council is focused on doing more to promote U.S. investments in Russia and Russian investments in the U.S."
USRBC President and CEO Dan Russell echoed Dr. Kleinfeld's sentiments by saying, "Economic ties between our countries are expanding and deepening, and it's upon that base that USRBC will be pursuing opportunities for bilateral commercial cooperation."
U.S. exports to Russia continue to grow, surpassing year-on-year 2012 levels, which reached an all time high of $10.7 billion. U.S. direct investment in Russia stands at approximately $10 billion, and Russian direct investment in the United States has reached close to $7.5 billion.
The U.S.-Russia Business Council (USRBC), www.usrbc.org, has offices in Washington, DC, and Moscow, and provides strategic advice, advocacy and government relations support to its 220 members.
SOURCE U.S.-Russia Business Council