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'Better, deeper' China-Russia trade ties


08:34, April 16, 2013

Premier Li sees chance for stronger bilateral economic cooperation

Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday that conditions have ripened for carrying out "better, faster and deeper" economic cooperation between China and Russia.

The two countries should seize the opportunity to provide a more open, convenient and regulated environment for investment in order to double or even quadruple bilateral trade, he said.

Li made the remarks during a meeting with visiting Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, which came less than a month after President Xi Jinping visited Russia on his first official trip abroad.

Officials and experts said China and Russia are paying more attention to each other because their heavily export-reliant economies are experiencing bottlenecks and their traditional target for economic cooperation in Europe, which is still trapped in crisis.

Li called for the two countries to raise the quality of cooperation by conducting joint research and manufacturing projects, as well as promoting large-scale cooperative projects of strategic importance.

Shuavalov said Russia, especially the country's Far East and Baikal areas, welcomes investment from Chinese companies.

Moscow had approved a development plan for the regions — vast areas with development potential — through 2020, Shuavalov told reporters ahead of the visit. "China is a strategic partner and neighbor to this area. We will make joint projects with China a priority," he said.

Russia is also ready to expand its cooperation with China in the areas of energy, finance, industrial modernization and infrastructure, and is working on creating a quality environment for foreign investors, he said.

Li Xin, director of the Center for Russia and Central Asia Studies with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said energy exports used to play an important role in Russia's economy but they are no longer able to reverse the country's sluggish economic growth.

"Under the pressure of the scarcity of finance for Russia's modernization and expanding domestic demand, Moscow is willing to see more direct investment from China," he said.

"China has to expand domestic demand ... So, it is time for Chinese enterprises to further explore the Russian market,"Li Xin said.

Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said on Monday the ministry will support Chinese enterprises capable of investing in the Russian market to promote the level of Sino-Russia cooperation.

China has accumulatively invested almost $30 billion in Russia, on top of non-financial investments that have grown more than 40 percent annually over the past decade, according to Gao.

Bilateral trade between China and Russia stood at a record $88.16 billion in 2012, up 11.2 percent year-on-year. Trade is widely believed to have a good chance of reaching the $100 billion and $200 billion goals set for 2015 and 2020 respectively.

China-Russia Investment Fund President Hu Bing said companies have increasingly decided to enter the Russian market by investing and establishing factories there.

"Besides those from Heilongjiang province, Jilin province and Inner Mongolia autonomous region, enterprises in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces have also showed great interest in the investment to Russia," he said.

Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli also had talks with Shuvalov on Monday before meeting with a group of Chinese and Russian entrepreneurs.

Li from the SIIS said cooperation with Russia's Far East can also help China rejuvenate the rustbelt industrial bases in its northeast.

In September 2009, China and Russia approved a planning program for cooperation between the two regions.

"But because the plan's implementation has not been satisfactory, both sides are working to specify and improve it," Li said.

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