US, Russian Officials Preview G20 Summit

File Photo of Russia-Hosted G20 Banners Outdoors Before Yellow and White Facade of Historic-Looking Building

(RIA Novosti – WASHINGTON, July 12, 2013) ­ Russia is doing relatively well, but needs a strong global economy to sustain and improve its recent growth, which makes the upcoming Group of 20 (G20) Summit it is hosting in September critically important to the country, Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, told a conference in Washington on Friday previewing the upcoming summit.

“Russia being a country that has integrated into the world economy only recently, only 20, 22 years, we have high stakes in the vitality and health of economic relations in the world. We are interested in seeing to it that the international trade conditions would be favorable for us as well. We certainly also depend on the markets outside of Russia for well-being of Russia, Russia being an exporter of things,” said Kislyak.

Being chair of the G20 this year is “a pretty unique opportunity not only to help together with the others to form a consensus on the current issues but also to be able to contribute a solution looking to the objects of our own problems and our own goals,” Kislyak added as one of two keynote speakers at the G20 forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a nonprofit Washington think tank that focuses on global challenges and solutions.

Leaders of the top 20 major world economies ­ which account for roughly 80 percent of the gross world product and 80 percent of global trade ­ will gather in St. Petersburg for the annual G20 leaders’ summit September 5-6. The goal is to find common ground and discuss individual policies and how they might impact other nations.

Experts at the CSIS forum said among the top priorities for discussion this year are:

  • Energy, and the need to act on fossil fuel strategies
  • Development
  • Global trade

“The G20 needs to be involved in corruption,” said Caroline Atkinson, White House deputy US national security advisor for international economies.

“It is an economic issue, and certainly is an issue in cross-border development,” Atkinson added.

Russia’s top priorities for the summit are economic growth and job creation, said Kislyak. “We have an ambitious plan in the years to come to create an additional 25 million jobs. That means restructuring old jobs and creating absolutely new. All of this requires a lot, a lot of investments, so the creation of the environment for the investments is also one of our national priorities.”

“We are working hard in Russia on creating conditions that would be considered by other outside investors as good as the 20 best countries in the world,” added Kislyak.

Russia’s economic relationship with the United States is small, because there is relatively little trade between the two countries. But Russia is growing in its importance on the world economic stage, said Gary Litman, vice president of international strategic initiatives for the US Chamber of Commerce.

“Russia’s unique, because it’s not coming to the global economic system as an exporter, but as a buyer that has the means, the demand, the understanding to attract investment, buy capital goods, upgrade its own economy. It’s the only large country in the global economy today that brings demand rather than supply,” Litman told RIA Novosti.

“I think there is an interesting discussion to be had between the US and Russia because of the scale that we share and because of the interesting combination of their need and our supply,” he added.

For US-Russian relations, the importance of the September Summit is compounded by Russia’s entry last August into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The G20 can “send a signal that we care about the WTO,” said Atkinson.

Litman said that Russia enters the group at a pivotal time, as the world is struggling to fully recover from the economic crisis of 2008. The US and Russia need to consider how to make the group more accessible to key members.

When US President Barack Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, discussions clearly did not go well. The result for the two normally charismatic men was a painfully awkward display before cameras that showed a glaring lack of chemistry between the two.

Relations between the two countries have not improved since then, with the ongoing dispute about fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s presence in Moscow, and differences over Syria and human rights, there have been questions about whether Obama and Putin will hold another one-on-one meeting at the G20.

White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington on Friday that Obama still plans on attending the G20, where he is scheduled to meet again with Putin on Sept. 5.

“G20 is going to be a significant event in the economic discussions… I hope it will be another confirmation that there are issues in the world where we all stand to benefit more by working together rather than by working against each other, and economics today is one of these areas,” said Kislyak.