WASHINGTON, May 18. /TASS./ The US government's position is that the US private business is free to decide whether or not to participate in the forthcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), a representative of the US State Department told TASS.
When asked whether the Trump administration abandoned the previous US policy to discourage American companies from attending the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, he said:
"We have an open dialogue with the business community, and ultimately companies are free to make their own decisions, in line with applicable laws and regulations."
The official added that the US government will not send its delegation to the SPIEF this year.
"As in previous years, there will be no U.S. Government delegation attending from Washington," the diplomat said.
However, another State Department spokesperson told TASS on Tuesday, the US administration believes that US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman’s plans to take part in the upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) as a routine part of his duties.
"Ambassador Huntsman will attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum this year as a routine part of his duties as the US Ambassador," the diplomat said. "He does not have a speaking role [at the SPIEF]."
"His attendance is consistent with the approach he has taken since his confirmation: people-to-people exchanges and private interactions are an important way to show that our disagreements are with the government of Russia, not with its people," he stressed.
"The United States has legitimate, serious concerns about Russian government’s behavior. We will not hesitate to use every appropriate opportunity to convey our concerns as we engage with Russia," the diplomat added.
In 2017, Huntsman’s predecessor as US Ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, attended SPIEF putting an end to the three-year absence of US officials at that event.
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will be held on May 24-26.
SPIEF has been held since 1997, and since 2006, it has been held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation, who has also attended each event.
Over the last 20 years, the Forum has become a leading global platform for members of the business community to meet and discuss the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole.