RUSSIAN-ARAB BUSINESS COUNCIL: WORKING FOR THE COMMON GOOD
Pavel V. Gusterin
Center for Asia and the Middle East of The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS)
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's relations with the Arab East began to go to a new level. Thus, in 2003, during the UN General Assembly in New York, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States (LAS) was signed, and the Russian ambassador in Egypt was accredited as a representative of Russia to the Arab League.
The work of the Russian-Arab Business Council (RABC) is a great example of this new level of relationship. In Moscow on the 17th of July, 2002 the chamber of commerce and industry (CCI) of the Russian Federation (headed by E.M. Primakov) and the General Union of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture chambers of Arab countries signed the Agreement on the establishment of RABS.
On the 29th of August 2003 the Russian part of the RABC was registered in Moscow as an "Autonomous Nonprofit Organization" Russian-Arab Business Council "" ("ANO" RABS ""). The establishment of the Arab part of the RABS was held in Kuwait on the session of the Council of the before mentioned General Union on the 21th of October 2003. The Chairman of the Arab RABC the owner of SONA Khaled Abu Ismail then became President of the General Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce.
RABC is committed to find new and mutually beneficial projects through the implementation of the capacity of its conventional and exhibition infrastructure, providing Russian business an opportunity to directly access to partners in the Arab countries, as well as to create a favorable climate for Russian companies in the Arab business environment and maintain a positive image of Russia in the Arab world.
The RABC aim is to expand the geography of business and active international relations, organisation of business meetings, business forums and "round tables" with the participation of leading businessmen, providing direct contacts with the Arab business to let the new mutually beneficial contracts to be concluded in future. Within the RABS forums 16 bilateral business councils, including the Russian-Palestinian Business Council were established.
The main RABS activities are: the pointed search for partners and promoting business ties between the representatives of large, medium and small businesses and co-ordination of their activities; the organization of meetings, business forums, conferences and "round tables" in Russia and the Arab countries with the participation of leading representatives of the business community; assisting in the establishment of direct contacts between Russian and Arab business structures; the informational, analytical and advisory work.
RABC activities contributed to the growth of trade turnover between Russia and the Arab countries, which has already exceeded $ 10 billion a year.
RF CCI president S.N. Katyrin gave the following characterization to the RABS activities: "Great merit belongs to the Russian-Arab Business Council, which has become an important part in the mechanism of trading and economic relations between Russia and the Arab world over the years of its activity. Frequent exhibitions, conferences, thematic workshops, providing organizational help are a good help for Russian and Arab organizations and companies. RABC effectively work with bilateral Russian-Arab Business Councils to implement specific joint projects.
"RABC hold joint meetings on a regular basis (every two years) in Russia and Arab countries to address pressing issues of development and cooperation.
The active RABC members, who are the heads of major Russian companies have the opportunity to position their companies in the Arab business community and to promote their companies during the RABC activities, to receive assistance in trading and economic activities aimed at establishing and developing of the partnerships with economic operators in the Arab countries, to negotiate and correspond; to receive recommendations on the organization of relationships with potential partners, ministries, agencies and chambers of commerce of the Arab countries; to have targeted approach to the organization of meetings with representatives of the Arab business community within steps to search for a partner on specific areas of business, as well as to head the panels and roundtables, to carry out them in the course of their presentations of their companies, business interests and activities in the Arab countries.
The RABC Lingware assistance is performed by the best Russian simultaneous interpreters – A.V. Hermanovitch and D.V. Mikulski.
The main RABC project is the big Arab exhibitions in Russia called "Arabia-EXPO", designed to create an operational platform to get Russian and Arab businessmen acquainted and for the exchange of views between them on the vital issues of modern business collaboration. The deputy director of RABC V.S. Lutsenko named the backgrounds of the exhibition: "Companies in our country began to win tenders in the most promising markets in the region - Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries. Arabs at the same time would also like to be present on the Russian market, to increase its share in the structure of trade, which, alas, is not yet in their favor. As it is known, the exhibitions play an important role in the advertising strategy. Thus, the initiative to hold the Arabic exhibition in Moscow on the regular basis was launched in St. Petersburg during the VI Joint session of the Russian-Arab Business Council both by the Russian Chamber of Commerce and the General Union of Chambers of Commerce".
RABC is an example of successful cooperation between businesses in Russia and the Arab world for the benefit of our countries. Over the years, RABC helped its members to find partners in the Arab world, since this structure has become a brand in the socio-political and business circles in the Middle East and North Africa long time ago.
On the 24th of May 2011 in Casablanca (Morocco) the commemorative X session of RABC under the auspices of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of the Arab countries was held. The session was attended by heads of ministries and departments, Chambers of Commerce, the largest companies, as well as small and medium-sized businesses from Russia, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia and other countries.
From the 30th of May to the 1st of June 2013 St. Petersburg hosted the XI session of the Arab Business Council and the III International Exhibition "Arabia-EXPO" at the "Fairgrounds" exhibition center. The event was attended by delegations from most of the Arab countries, including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Palestine and Sudan. The national pavilions of UAE (ranked first), Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine and Sudan were presented as part of the exhibition.
What are the main areas of economic cooperation with the Arab countries? These questions were answered by T.A. Gvilava during her tenure as Director of RABC (in 2013 she was replaced by Yankovets S.M.): "If we talk about the relationship between these countries and Russia, we see positive changes that occurred during the recent years: increased trade turnover, the specific investment cooperation began to take place, including the property development field. And most importantly - there is the growth of interest of the Arab business community to our market. This applies both to our long-standing partners, and the countries with the diplomatic relations established only in the nineties of the last century. Put forward and discuss the advanced cooperation initiatives at the bilateral and inter-Arab level.
Evaluating the activity of RABC, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said:" In a relatively short period of RABC operating under the aegis of bilateral business councils have made a significant contribution to the revitalization of the Russian-Arab relations in trading, economic, investment, scientific-technical and humanitarian spheres. Russia intends to continue to actively and consistently strengthen ties with the Arab world - for the sake of prosperity and well-being of our countries and peoples, in the interests of regional and global stability."