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The Bottom Line

In Business? Join a Club.
John Bonar

Andrew Somers, President Amcham

E
xpat business people here, whether in charge of Russian operations for a multinational or running their own start up, often feel a need to meet fellow business people and share problems and experiences. While there are many foreign business associations in Moscow, the majority are restricted to nationals of one country and operate under the auspices of their embassies commercial departments.

If your embassy runs one, join it. They are usually free or very low cost.

For something higher profile and which yields influence with the Russian authorities over legislation, then you have a choice of three the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Russia, the Association of European Businesses (AEB) and the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce (RBCC).

What you get can include elite business breakfasts with top leaders of the Russian government, heavyweight lobbying for your interests as a foreign businessman in Russia, and an opportunity to participate in top level business development meetings with Russian regional leaders. All three also have members business networking events on a regular basis, offering afterwork drinks and a chance to meet old and new friends.

AmCham and RBCC both produce glossy quarterly magazines, focusing on members interests. AEB members receive quarterly market updates on business, economic and legislative issues including a Real Estate Monitor.

AmCham is perceived as the heavyweight of the three. Founded as the American Business Club it has operated in Moscow since 1991. It has a branch in St Petersburg and maintains a Washington lobbying office. Corporate membership fees start at $1,300 a year if you have a turnover less than $2 million worldwide. At the top end, if your company has sales in excess of $1 billion, then membership will cost $6,500 a year. Whatever your nationality, if you have business in Russia, you can join AmCham.

AEB CEO, Andreas Romanos

As well as over 17 monthly specialist committee meetings, the Chamber organizes conferences, seminars, breakfast meetings, regional briefings and Business Development Missions. It also hosts regular forums with CEOs and leading Russian and American decision makers.

Rapidly catching up with AmCham, both in terms of clout with the federal government and specialized committees is the AEB, particularly as Russian policy seeks improved ties and cooperation with Europe. AEB offers four categories of corporate membership, to EU/EFTA (European Union/European Free Trade Area) legal entities, with annual fees ranging from E500 to E5,000, depending on turnover. EU/EFTA citizens may join as individuals for E500 a year. Businesses which are not registered in the EU of EFTA member countries may join as associate members.

Increasingly AEB officials and committee chairmen are gaining influence with federal authorities as they speak out on issues affecting foreign businessmen here, while their flagship events are frequently oversubscribed.

The oldest foreign business group is the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, having been established in London in 1916. That said, it is Johnnycome- lately on the Moscow scene, having re-opened an office here only in 1994 and a St Petersburg branch in 2004. With a total membership of around 400 it also charges the highest fees, in that there are only two categories of membership: Gold Card at GBP 12,000 a year, or corporate membership at GBP 2,000 plus a one-off joining fee of GBP 150.

RBCC director Neil Cooper

RBCCs headquarters in London and its influence in British corridors of government and corporate power give it tremendous scope in helping Russian companies become known and established in the UK. Despite its low national profile in Moscow, RBCCs business missions to the regions open doors and enable elite meetings and briefings with the regional power structures, from Governors on down.

With new Moscow Director Neil Cooper, who brings a wealth of relevant business experience to the role, including 12 years with Kodak in Russia, there are high hopes that RBCC will play an increasingly active role and become an essential tool in the Russian-British business community arsenal.







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