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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Seeks New Economic Order

ST. PETERSBURG -- President Vladimir Putin has called for the creation of a new global economic order that would diminish the importance of the WTO and the IMF -- and at the same time asked eight U.S. business leaders to help get Russia into the WTO.

Putin criticized the World Trade Organization and similar institutions as "archaic, nondemocratic and unwieldy" during a speech Sunday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The president, speaking in the presence of WTO head Pascal Lamy and EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, said the organizations should be overhauled to take into account the might of emerging economies like Russia, India and China.

"It's obvious that a world financial system tied to one or two currencies and a limited number of financial centers no longer reflects the current strategic needs of the global economy," Putin said.

Russia, he said, could emerge as a new financial center and the ruble should become an alternative to the dollar and euro.

"It would be timely to raise the question of switching to ruble payments in export operations from Russia," Putin said.

Accusing the developed economies that established the WTO of protectionism, he said regional economic institutions could become an alternative.

But in a sign of the importance that the Kremlin places on WTO entry -- and perhaps in a tacit acknowledgement that there are not any real alternatives to the bloc -- Putin on Saturday met with eight U.S. executives to offer Kremlin support for their work in Russia in exchange for their assistance in speeding up Russia's accession process.

The eight executives were Scott Carson, chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes; Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola president and CEO; Michael Klein, CEO of global banking at Citigroup; David O'Reilly, Chevron chairman and CEO; Gregory Brown, Motorola president and COO; Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical president and CEO; James Mulva, ConocoPhillips chairman and CEO; and John Faraci, International Paper's chairman and CEO. U.S. Ambassador William Burns also participated in the meeting.

O'Reilly said Putin encouraged U.S. investment and called the meeting "very constructive."

Andrew Somers, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, said the main reason for the 30-minute meeting was to secure support from businessmen who could "urge Congress to abrogate Jackson-Vanik," the Soviet-era trade provision that the United States must lift before Russia joins the WTO.

Putin, speaking to more than 100 foreign CEOs later Saturday, said it was in the U.S. interest to let Russia into the WTO as soon as possible. "I've just met with several of our American colleagues and drew their attention to the fact that ... our partners in the world's leading economies are interested in Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization no less than we are," he said in opening remarks.

Also Saturday, Somers announced the creation of a working group of Russian and U.S. executives to lobby for Russia's accession.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab told reporters at the forum Sunday that it would make sense to raise the issue of lifting the Jackson-Vanik amendment when Russia reaches the final stages of the accession process. She said the process could technically be completed by year's end.

Somers said the time frame meant U.S. and Russian business leaders would step up pressure on U.S. officials in the late fall.

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and Schwab discussed Russia's entry into the WTO on Sunday and "agreed to seriously speed up the talks" to wrap up the accession process by year's end, Gref said.

Asked to comment on Russia's entry into an organization that Putin had criticized, Gref said the WTO needed a more "democratic" structure but Russia had to join for lack of a better alternative. "There are a lot of imperfect things in life, but nevertheless we participate in them," Gref said. "If somebody knows another way, then offer a suggestion."

Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, expressed hope that Russia would not backtrack on the progress it has made in the WTO accession process. "I hope the whole of the Russian government, and in particular President Putin, remain firmly behind Minister Gref's efforts," he said on the sidelines of the forum. "He works so hard, he commands the trust of his counterparts in the WTO, and he deserves his government's support.''

He promised to help speed up Russia's entry.

Schwab declined to comment on Putin's criticism, saying she first needed to see a transcript of his speech.

"The sooner Russia is in the WTO, the better," Schwab told forum participants. "And I think that's the message we need to convey to our Congress and the administration."

Also Saturday, Putin said Russia welcomed foreign investors and expected other nations to be open to investment from Russia.

A total of $13.5 billion worth of deals were signed at the forum, Gref told reporters Sunday evening. Foreign investment accounted for $4 billion of that amount.

Staff Writer Simon Shuster contributed to this report.