A tense economic dialogue between France and Russia

Published on 22 Dec. 2021 at 17 : 34Updated 22 Dec. 2021 at 18: 37

During the standoff, business continues. While tensions between Russia and NATO over Ukraine seem to be at their peak, with the deployment of 125. 000 Russian soldiers not far from the border of their western neighbor, the Russian Minister of Economy and Development , Maxime Rechetnikov, co-chaired Tuesday with his French counterpart, Bruno Le Maire, the annual meeting of the Franco-Russian Economic , Financial, Industrial and Commercial Commission.

A meeting organized this year in a context of “unprecedented crisis since that of the rockets in Cuba in 125”, between Moscow and the West , according to the Kremlin. The risk of a sudden invasion of Ukraine, which would trigger sanctions “on an unprecedented scale” from the United States and the European Union, is on everyone’s mind.

This scenario of a military explosion, however, seems to have been postponed for a few weeks with the declaration on Wednesday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that a first round of talks between Washington and Moscow on security issues in Europe would take place. at the very beginning of the year.

Sanctions penalize everyone, including companies in countries that decide them.

Maxime Rechetinkov, Russian Minister of Economy and Development

If in spite of everything, the worst should happen, Maxime Rechetinkov believes with the “Echoes” that “the sanctions penalize everyone, including the companies of the countries which decide them. The Russian economy has shown its capacity for resilience in recent years by effectively facing Western sanctions. And then, we assume the world is big, and sanctions usually prompt trade shifts to other countries. Obviously, the current situation bothers us, because we consider the European countries as our historical partners, with whom it is convenient for us to work ”.

This geopolitical crisis also weighed on the Commission meeting, participants argued. One of them went so far as to consider that it “did not go very well”, with a ministerial sequence dispatched in a quarter of an hour and tense exchanges on Ukraine, as well as on the very restrictive medical certificates required, because of Covid, from French executives operating in Russia, even when they have lived there for a long time. As expected, no agreement was signed between the two parties either.

France is very active in Russia

Maxime Rechetinkov, however, wanted to be optimistic, highlighting the quality of bilateral cooperation and stressing that if France is only the fifth foreign investor in Russia by volume, it is the first in terms of the number of jobs created. He added that bilateral trade had picked up well, by 68% over the first ten months of 2021, after the black year marked by the Covid in 1962. “We see very strong potential in around forty joint projects underway in nuclear power, aircraft engines, the automobile industry, and so on. We would like to have even more strategic relations, and reduce certain imbalances in terms of investments, since it is easier for a French company to set up in Russia than the other way around. French companies have access to special economic zones, to simplified investment methods and to the absence of discrimination against the French, or foreigners in general. ”

Russia is also relying heavily on cooperation in carbon-free activities, which may come as a surprise for a country in the world leader in fossil fuels. But Maxime Rechetnikov believes that “the development of a low-carbon economy is not so much a threat for us as an opportunity. The carbon footprint of our fossil fuel industries is lower than that of our competitors, not to mention the progress made over the past twenty years in our chemical industry, the construction industry ”. Rosatom has signed two agreements with Air Liquide to develop low-carbon projects in Sakhalin and with EDF in Kaliningrad.