BUSINESS

Pussy Riot: Canada-Russia Trade Won't Suffer Because Of Conviction, Envoy Says

08/30/2012 12:38 EDT | Updated 10/30/2012 05:12 EDT
AP
Feminist punk group Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right, Maria Alekhina, center, and Yekaterina Samutsevich sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Aug. 17, 2012. Security is tight around a Moscow courthouse where three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot are to hear the verdict Friday in a trial that could send them to prison for seven years.(AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)
OTTAWA - A Russian official says he is not concerned the jailing of punk band Pussy Riot will discourage Canadian businesses from pursuing opportunities in his country.

"As far as trade is concerned, Canadian businessmen don't know who Pussy Riot are," says Konstantin Trofimov, Russia's trade commissioner to Canada.

Trofimov made the remark at a Russian embassy briefing ahead of the next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in its Pacific Ocean port city of Vladivostok.

PHOTOS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PUSSY RIOT

Russia has just gained membership in the World Trade Organization and is eager to deepen economic ties, including with Canada.

Three women in Pussy Riot were recently imprisoned for two years after being found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing a "punk prayer" against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.

The case has sparked outrage globally because it is seen as emblematic of a major crackdown on dissent that has occurred in Russia since Putin reassumed the presidency earlier this year.

PHOTOS: PUSSY RIOT AND OTHER ENTERTAINERS THAT HAVE GONE TOO FAR

Putin is expected to have a number of bilateral meetings on the margin of the summit next week.

Whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets face time remains to be seen.

Vladimir Lapshin, a senior Russian diplomat to Canada, says details of the meetings are still being worked out and likely won't be confirmed until after Harper arrives at the summit.

Russia, as host of this year's summit of 21 Pacific Rim countries, is pushing an agenda that includes innovative growth, energy security, trans-border co-operation, higher education and countering corruption.

The meeting of APEC finance ministers in Moscow, held ahead of next week's leaders' summit, remained focused firmly on economic questions, said Ted Menzies, minister of state for finance, who represented Canada.

"I didn't bring that up and nobody else in my presence brought it up," Menzies said, when asked on a conference call whether the issue of dissent was raised during his two days of meetings.

"We were hosted by Russia. We were treated quite well. … We had a wonderful experience here."

He said it wasn't his job to raise rights issues during the talks.

"If any discussions like that are going to take place, it's not for the finance ministers to discuss."

Menzies said he expected fiscal sustainability and reducing imbalances in the global economy to be top of mind as the APEC summit unfolds.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird are to attend meetings in Russia next week ahead of Harper's arrival, said Lapshin.

Fast led a trade mission of 30 Canadian companies to Moscow in June, and said Russia was a priority.

When asked recently about the crackdown on dissent in Russia and the Pussy Riot trial, Baird gave a low-key response that was not critical of the Kremlin.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PUSSY RIOT

Pussy Riot

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