The BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – account for almost 42 percent of the world's population. Trade fairs could be better exploiting this potential.
At the BRICS Business Forum held during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June, Sergey Bednov made a speech that attracted a lot of attention. "All BRICS countries display an interest in participating in exhibitions in Russia," said the director general of Russia's leading trade fair company, Expocentre. "More than 6,000 companies from China alone take part in Russian exhibitions every year." The interest from the People's Republic extends to all Russian trade fairs and product groups – from power engineering, mechanical engineering and electronics to health, food and consumer goods. Indian companies are also becoming noticeably more active in the Russian market, as are increasing numbers from Brazil and South Africa. "Russian companies also regularly exhibit at exhibitions in other BRICS countries," emphasised Bednov. Nevertheless, he believes the joint trade fair potential among the five member countries is not yet being exploited well enough.
Encouraging collaboration between the trade fair organisations of the various BRICS countries could achieve this more effectively. Sergey Bednov, who is also the chairman of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's committee for exhibition and congress activities, came up with seven proposals for strengthening cooperation between BRICS countries in the trade fair sector. First, coordinated efforts must be made to attract exhibitors and visitors from these countries. Leading trade fairs and conventions in the key sectors are ideal for this. Second, the Expocentre boss proposed the joint organisation of trade fairs for goods and services from BRICS countries in "strategically important spheres". Those include multi-sector industrial exhibitions and sector-specific exhibitions "within the framework of bilateral and multilateral cooperation programmes and projects". Events like this could be alternated between the five countries together with the presidency of the BRICS group.
The third proposal was to organise exhibitions or presentations of investment projects annually. These events could be timed to coincide with the meetings of the BRICS countries' heads of government. Fourth, scientific and business conferences, symposiums and round-table discussions should be initiated – within the framework of exhibitions or as independent convention activities. Fifth, Bednov proposed offering assistance with the organisation of trade fair trips for business people: "The aim is to form partnerships, make presentations and conclude import and export deals." Sixth, trade fairs and conventions should receive assistance with the distribution of information through existing channels. Examples would be the BRICS business web portal or the resources of national and bilateral chambers of commerce and industry or associations. Seventh, the exchange of information between trade fair organisations in the BRICS countries should be strengthened with links to their event calendars. Sergey Bednov is certain that the well-targeted "use of exhibitions as a mechanism would promote the development of trade and investment" (www.expocentr.ru).
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