JEREMY HOBSON: To St. Petersburg, Russia now where there’s a big economic forum going on today. It’s being called the Davos of Russia because of all the political and economic bigwigs that are showing up. The event is an opportunity for Russia to market itself for international investment. And this year there’s a lot more focus on opportunities in the East than the West.
Reporter Peter Van Dyk is at the forum and he joins us now. Good morning.
PETER VAN DYK: Good morning Jeremy.
HOBSON: Well, Peter, set the scene for us. What are people talking about there this year?
VAN DYK: The big news this year is a potential gas deal with China. Hu Jintao — the president of China — is the guest of honor this week, and the Kremlin loves to announce big business deals here. This year, though, there’s been a slight hitch. The marque deal was meant to be a contract of Russian gas exports to China, but Russia wants higher prices than China is prepared to pay. It’s not clear that the deal will get done in time for Hu Jintao’s appearance with President Dmitry Medvedev tomorrow.
HOBSON: So everyone’s talking about this deal with China. What about U.S. companies? Are they in the mix this year? Does anybody care?
VAN DYK: Well, of course they are because President Medvedev is openly keen for U.S. high tech firms to bring their expertize to Russia. Google Eric Schmidt is a star name here, as well as the CEOs of Cisco and aluminum giant Alcao. The biggest news everyone’s waiting for though is the launch of the Russian fund of direct investments. Russia very much wants to encourage international investors and the government is willing to go halves with them on any investment. There are $2 billion up for grabs this year.
HOBSON: Reporter Peter Van Dyk at the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, thanks so much for joining us.
VAN DYK: Thank Jeremy.
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