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Corin Dann: Russian economy on the move

opinion Corin Dann

By Corin Dann ONE News Political Editor

Published: 6:51AM Sunday September 09, 2012 Source: ONE News

  • Vladimir Putin raises his flute of champagne. (Source: ONE News)
    Vladimir Putin raises his flute of champagne. - Source: ONE News

Barring any huge surprises today it seems unlikely APEC will deliver any amazing developments on the trade front this year. The TPP trade deal involving the US seems to be on thin ice while the Presidential Race is on and the other main deal the ASEAN plus 6 is very much in its early stages.

Undoubtedly there will be plenty of tough talk about the need for more trade liberalisation from the leaders in their final statement, maybe even some talk from Vladimir Putin about the need for a Euro-Asian FTA. However concrete progress looks unlikely.

For New Zealand, APEC this year was always just about securing the bilateral trade deal with Russia. These things are notorious to lock down, and having John Key and Vladimir Putin in the same room for half an hour is extremely important. If John Key can firm things up then it will have been worth it.

It's clear from spending some time here the Russian economy is on the move. The scale of the projects in Vladivostok is mind boggling. $25 billion or so has apparently been spent on infrastructure.

The centre piece is the amazing Russky Island Bridge, although the other bridge in town is pretty awe inspiring too.

The people in Vladivostok I spoke to seemed very proud of the investment and happy there city is getting a face lift.

When asked about the controversy over anti-Putin Band Pussy Riot there was little interest, and "I don't care" seemed to be the general response.

In fact, according to Russian journalists I've spoken to, about 80% of people support the two-year sentence handed down to three band members.

Hardly surprising too to hear John Key down play the likelihood of raising the Pussy Riot issue in talks with Putin.

Key (who has criticised the sentence given to the band members) instead preferring to let that issue be raised through diplomatic avenues.

Interestingly, the young people I spoke to in Vladivostok praised Putin when asked, and while it's hard to tell if they were being genuine in their response, it does seem that he is popular in this town, at least.

Sergey Brilev, a journalist for a leading state TV channel, told me recently Putin has proved to be a very effective politician.

However he also bemoaned the lack of opposition, saying it lacked organisation and unity and acknowledged it is very disappointing for Russia.

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