Things are changing in the world. BRICS member states are exerting growing influence on most major global issues, including recovery of the world economy in the post-crisis period, reform of international financial institutions and ensuring food and energy security.
So it should be no surprise that top-level business forums, like the World Economic Forum in Davos, are no longer the monopoly of the West. To further upgrade integration in global economic affairs and increase their role in policymaking, BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are hosting an increasing number of such forums - for instance, the regular large-scale gatherings of political and business leaders in Boao, Hainan province, and St Petersburg, Russia.
The St Petersburg International Economic Forum which is currently taking place, is worth watching. The theme is 'Emerging Leadership for a New Era'. At a series of high-profile meetings, international experts, including politicians, are sharing their views on the changing global situation and business environment. With the growing realisation that the factors which led to growth in the previous decade have been exhausted, discussion is widely expected to focus on the increasing influence of the BRICS countries on regional markets' prospects.
Since it was first held in 1997, the forum has grown in importance as a unique platform for bilateral and multilateral contract negotiations and the clinching of deals. Last year, 68 investment agreements were signed (compared with 47 contracts in 2010), with the 17 largest deals totalling more than US$10 billion. With the prospect of a new phase in the privatisation of state companies and economic modernisation and innovation in Russia, there will be a fierce battle to win shares in Russian blue chips and acquire favourable conditions.
It is interesting to note that Asian nations are paying more attention to the St Petersburg forum. A preparatory meeting was held in Hong Kong in April, where panellists discussed, among other topics, the potential for Russia to expand trade and investment in Asia and further regional economic integration; Asia's potential role in investing in and developing Siberia; and, Russian firms enhancing investment and trade in Asia. A road show was held in Singapore in the same month.
Moscow no doubt sees the forum as an opportunity to attract investors from the Asia-Pacific economies, especially from China, South Korea and Japan. It also appears it will become an important component of Russia's preparation for the next The Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum summit, scheduled to be held in Vladivostok in September.
Donald Gasper is a Hong Kong-based journalist