Book Launch -- Russian-Eurasian Renaissance? U.S. Trade and Investment in Russia and Eurasia
In a recent meeting at the Kennan Institute, Jan Kalicki, Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center, and Eugene Lawson, President, U.S.-Russia Business Council, presented the findings of their co-edited volume: Russian-Eurasian Renaissance? U.S. Trade and Investment in Russia and Eurasia.
"This is the only comprehensive volume on trade and investment opportunities and challenges in Russia and Eurasia," stated Kalicki. The book differentiates among four categories of states: the resource-rich potential economic "tigers" and "peacocks," and the resource-poor "hares" and "groundhogs". Divided into five sections, the volume describes current and prospective commerce with Russia and Eurasia; examines five sectors as the main "economic drivers" of commerce; explores the constraints on the economic development of and increased trade with Russia and Eurasia; and finally makes some predictions for the future prospects of the region. In addition to forewords by Georgian President Shevardnadze, former Russian Prime Minister Gaidar and Wilson Center director Lee Hamilton, each section is complemented by commentaries from senior policy figures from Russia and other post-Soviet States.
The book, commented Kalicki, focuses on both the positive and the negative aspects of the economic and investment climate. Positive factors such as economic reforms and record economic growth in the post-Soviet states since the financial collapse of 1998 are counterbalanced by negative factors, including continued state controls, inadequate rule of law, and corruption. Optimistic assessments from some authors are countered by pessimistic analyses from others, leading to a lively debate among the contributors. The book's overall optimistic outlook is predicated on the strength of economic reform and open markets in the leading states of the region, stated Kalicki.
The book section detailing the leading economic sectors asks key questions for Russia and Eurasia, noted Lawson. In addition to energy, the book has chapters on aerospace (will leasing prove to be the financing vehicle that opens this big market?), automobile manufacturing (how can the principles of organizational management be translated to a different culture?), agriculture (why hasn't there been a bigger payoff from land reform?), and telecommunications (what is the future of internet and wireless communications?). Russia, heavily dependent upon energy and resource exports, has a particular need to diversify its economy. "The past century has not been kind to commodity-based economies in terms of living standards for populations, even in energy exporting nations," argued Lawson.
Real and potential constraints on Russian and Eurasian growth are detailed in the fourth section of the book, which looks at corruption, investor protection, corporate governance, rule of law, the banking system, oligarchic capitalism, and other risk factors for the region. The final section of the book looks to the future, including market reform, trade agreements and the WTO, and the political dynamic.
Both speakers stressed the importance of democratic reform and strengthening civil society along with the implementation of economic reform, noting that in the end the two reinforce each other.