"We're on the right track," President Dmitry Medvedev said during his state visit to France in March. With Nicolas Sarkozy set to join Medvedev, chairing a session at this year's St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a major aim is for strengthening political relations to support growing economic links. Alexander Zhukov, Russian deputy prime minister, and Christine Lagarde, France's economic affairs minister, who co-chair the two states' intergovernmental committee, explain developments so far and the future of economic ties.
Jean de Gliniasty became France's ambassador to Russia in January 2009 and since his arrival the Year of France in Russia has figured highly in his priorities. Cultural events have dominated thus far, but with President Sarkozy's visit to St. Petersburg for the annual economic forum, he explains how this year is helping develop business ties between the two countries.
Vincent Ollivier, CEO of BNP Paribas Vostok, arrived in Moscow in 2003, witnessing first-hand many recent developments in the banking sector. Although BNP Paribas already has retail branches in five major cities, Ollivier, like many, still sees two Russias: Moscow and beyond.
Russia remains a highly attractive market for car manufacturers, but a case study of developments in relations between the French firm Renault and Russia's AvtoVAZ highlights how common origins and ideologies can cause contention or provide a source for reconciliation.
One of the keys to economic growth, technological development ensures that an economy remains competitive. However, upgrading production quality and practices is impossible without the know-how. With over 400 subsidiaries or representative offices in Russia, French firms are playing a key role in providing both.
For the majority of French companies that enter the Russian market, Moscow is their initial destination. The size and potential of the capital's market can make it difficult for some firms to move beyond the MKAD. While no one will say setting up shop in Russia's regions is easy, the advantages of doing so can provide companies with long-term competitive benefits.
The French luxury goods market has expanded rapidly in post-Soviet Russia, as wealth has let people express an age-old affection for top-end merchandise. Post-crisis, spending habits may change, but Russians still look set to covet France's famous brands.
Like France, Russia is, in many respects, highly centralized. Yet, the sheer size of the country Ч 31 times larger than France Ч automatically provides for a level of autonomy. While France's education minister may know exactly who is studying what and when, time zones alone mean Moscow's education chief will never be so all-controlling.
To coincide with President Sarkozy of France's visit to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, The Moscow Times is publishing a special edition of its Partnership XXI Century guides. Russia-France is dedicated to business relations between the two countries.