After visiting Moscow, the Minister of International Relations and Minister Responsible for La Francophonie, Pierre Arcand, concluded his mission to Russia on June 7 by participating in the 13th Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). This Russian “Davos” is a gathering place for the world’s political and economic elite as well as for the Russian Federation’s most influential figures, including President Medvedev.
Minister Arcand (right) with the Minister and Head of the Moscow Department of International Relations, Georgiy Muradov. An agreement for the creation of a formal and permanent Québec-Moscow cooperation mechanism is expected to be signed by year’s end.
In conjunction with the institutional component of his mission, Minister Arcand met with Russia’s Federal Minister of Education and Science, Andrei Fursenko. He also had the opportunity to speak with the UK’s Minister of Trade and Investment, Mervyn Davies, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Waldemar Pawlak, and the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Maria van der Hoeven, with whom he discussed current negotiations for a Canada–European Union free trade agreement.
Over the years, the SPIEF has become one of the most important world economic forums. For Québec companies like SNC-Lavalin, Bombardier and Cirque du Soleil, which are already operating in Russia, and companies intending to penetrate the Russian market a visit by a Québec Minister constitutes major support in a country where politics play an extensive role in the economy.
In 2008, Russia was Québec’s 13th most important client in terms of trade. Exports to Russia totalled $450M and imports were nearly double that amount at close to $850M, primarily in the natural resources sector. The Russian political authorities with whom Minister Arcand met expressed their desire to increase and diversify trade with Québec. They clearly indicated their needs, particularly in nanotechnologies and green technologies, two sectors where Québec excels.
“I urge Québec companies to take advantage of this gigantic emerging market to extend the influence and growth of Quebec know-how worldwide. We need more flagship companies now to guide Québec’s entrepreneurs in this market which, I admit, remains challenging but which is highly promising. And when the economy recovers, companies that are well positioned at the starting line will have a sizeable advantage,” said Minister Arcand.
The news in images: Minister Arcand in Russia