Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 27.01.2018
Ukraine has had a good showing at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. President Petro Poroshenko led a high-level delegation which did what they were supposed to do at this gathering of the rich and powerful: present Ukraine to the world in the best possible light. The take-away from Davos for the participants was that Ukraine is decidedly set on its European path, is “open for business,” and represents an opportunity for growth.
A shift in sentiment is underway. When “looking to the east” in Europe, businesspeople are slowly overcoming their instinct to look to Russia. Russia is under sanctions because it has invaded Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas, and illegally occupies those parts of Ukrainian territory. There is no returning to pre-Russian invasion times while Putin’s War still rages and while Russia still refuses to leave Ukraine. The sanctions aren’t going away. In fact, while the Davos forum was underway the severity of sanctions increased. On January 26, the US imposed sanctions on an additional 21 individuals and 21 entities. The opportunity for businesses and investors to make money by making deals with Russia is gone.
Putin did not go to Davos. He was afraid to go.
The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, did go, and he was well-received. He had a busy schedule of meeting world leaders: the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania, the Prime Ministers of Croatia and Great Britain, leaders from Baltic and Balkan countries, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, her deputy David Lipton, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Suma Chakrabarti. At a press briefing afterwards, President Poroshenko had this to say: “About forum in Davos, I could say one phrase - everything was very good.”
Ukraine has a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union and a free trade agreement with Canada – the foundation is there for an expansion of trade, as long as investors and businesspeople know about the opportunities that exist in Ukraine. To present these opportunities, Ukraine held an event during the World Economic Forum called “Ukraine House Davos” which focussed on technology and innovative businesses in Ukraine, and how international investors can “get in on the ground floor” of Ukraine’s economic rise. President Poroshenko hosted a “Davos Ukrainian Breakfast” which was well-attended by leaders from the worlds of politics, business, civil society and the media.
Ukraine is currently in 76th place in the the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. Given that Ukraine was the biggest gainer in the rankings in 2017 among post-Soviet countries, President Poroshenko said that it is realistic for Ukraine to be in the top-50 in a short period of time.
The shift in sentiment at Davos was to look to Ukraine when “looking to the east” in Europe. Ukraine is a normal partner for business. Under sanctions for constituting a grave threat to international peace and security, Russia is not a normal partner for business. Ukraine is a democracy; Russia is not. Ukraine has free trade agreements; Russia does not. Ukraine is undergoing radical reform; Russia is mired in irredeemable corruption. Davos showed the world that Ukraine is a natural and very promising destination for business and investment.