Vi members connect with UNCTAD experts for WIR Russian launchIn a video conference held December 10, UNCTAD presented its World Investment Report 2007 to two Russian Vi member universities actively engaged in trade and investment training and research - the State University Higher School of Economics (HSE), Moscow, and St. Petersburg State University.

In addition to masters students and staff from the two universities, the videoconference gathered a varied audience that included government representatives (Ministry of Economic Development and Trade in Moscow, and Geneva's Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation), the press (two daily newspapers in Moscow and a TV channel in St. Petersburg) and the Director of the British Council office in St. Petersburg, whose facilities hosted the event.

The videoconference was moderated by Tatiana Isachenko, Vi coordinator at HSE, Olga Trofimenko from St. Petersburg State University, and Vlasta Macku, Chief of the Virtual Institute.

Two of the report's authors, Jean-François Outreville and Astrit Sulstarova from the Division on Investment, Technology and Enterprise Development, provided an overview of the major trends and prospects in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worldwide, including types of FDI (Greenfield and Mergers & Acquisitions), sources and recipients, most favoured locations and companies' main motives for choosing a location to invest in. The second part of the presentation focused specifically on trends in the region (Southern and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States countries) with an emphasis on investment in extractive industries - the core topic of this year's report.

"Given the importance of extractive industries for the economy of the country, in particular the energy sector, the conclusions of the report have a considerable practical importance for Russia," commented Yury Afanassiev, Senior Counsellor for Economic Affairs, Permanent mission of the Russian Federation.

The report argues that the current commodities boom triggered by rising demand from Asia provides opportunities for development and poverty alleviation in mineral and oil/gas-exporting countries. Foreign investment through transnational corporations (TNCs) may contribute capital, technology and management skills, and increase government revenues and the countries' income in general. At the same time however, it raises concerns about unequal bargaining powers and sharing of revenues between the TNCs and host countries, and possible environmental, social and political impact on host countries.

According to the report, there is a need for concerted efforts to leverage the development potential of extractive industries and translate it into poverty alleviation and economic and social development. In the host country, clear government strategies and transparent mechanisms for using export revenues are necessary, as well as an appropriate legal framework for sharing of profits with foreign investors. Home-country governments should promote responsible behaviour by TNCs investing in extractive industries abroad, and the international community should provide technical assistance, help develop relevant standards and guidelines and monitor their implementation.

"Students were very motivated and well prepared, and asked highly relevant questions," Macku said. " All parties expressed the hope that in the future there would be more opportunities for a similar kind of events. Mr. Afanassiev stressed the need for his country to have qualified experts on international trade and investment matters, in particular in light of ongoing WTO accession negotiations that could possibly be concluded by mid-next year.

"Such experts are needed not only for the negotiation of the agreements, but even more for their subsequent implementation. In this context, he welcomed the programmes that both universities have put in place to prepare such specialists."