World gathers for St. Pete Economic Forum

More than 120 delegations from every corner of the world are converging on Saint Petersburg for the city’s annual International Economic Forum, which starts on Friday. Organisers hope signed contracts will surpass last year’s total of $US 13.5 billion.

With the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and so many other decision-makers attending, analysts claim it’s set to overtake Davos as the top gathering of business leaders and politicians.

The presentation of St. Petersburg's new commodities exchange, a joint venture between Severstal and Fiat to build diesel engines and the first flight of Sukhoi's SuperJet 100 are all high on the forum's agenda.

The head of the Forum Fund, Anton Troyanov, says sealing deals at the forum is more of a symbolic gesture.

“The forum is a place for meeting and exchanging ideas, not for official ceremonies. Experienced people understand that real business doesn't happen at forums. Deals are sealed elsewhere, but a forum such as this one is a good place to present these deals to the public,” he said.

And others argue it's not the contracts or the amount of attracted investment that make the St. Petersburg forum Russia's main economic event of the year.

“It s not about making deals or improving business, it’s more about advancing the image of Russia as an important investment place and providing information and possibilities for the investors to understand that Russia is different to how it is portrayed in the west,” Aleksandr Izosimov, Vimpelcom CEO, said.