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Experts Say Sino-Russian Trade Should Swell

Experts and officials from China and Russia attending the Ninth Seminar on Sino-Russian Regional Cooperation in Beijing on Monday agreed that they should accelerate bilateral trade to strengthen strategic cooperation.

Sino-Russian trade relations have picked up in recent years and regional synergy has diversified, said Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui.

Bilateral trade reached a record high of US$15.8 billion last year.

Li attributed the fruitful cooperation to the many advantages that the two countries possess, such as their geographical locations and strong desire for accord.

Sergei Tsyplakov, Russia's trade representative to China, noted that both bilateral trade and areas of regional cooperation, particularly border trade, have continued to grow.

The old bilateral cooperation model limited exchanges to those between Russia and China's northeast, he said. Nowadays, other provinces and cities in China, such as Shandong, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces and Shanghai Municipality, have set up direct links with Russia.

Tsyplakov said bilateral relations will further develop as long as high-level exchanges are maintained and cooperation between large enterprises is strengthened.

China and Russia share a border that stretches for more than 4,300 kilometers, creating a plethora of trade possibilities. Russia is China's eighth biggest trade partner and China is Russia's fourth largest.

However, Russia's share of China's total foreign trade volume has been declining. In 2003 the proportion was 1.9 percent, compared with 3.7 percent in 1990.

Li Jianmin, a researcher on Russian issues, said the decline occurred because the Sino-Russian trade structure is very simple: it mainly comprises raw materials, with high-tech and high-value-added products making up a very small proportion. Also, she noted, the countries have too few large cooperative investment projects.

Moreover, several bilateral trade bottlenecks exist, she said.

But despite the problems, Li said it was clear that the countries were complementary, as long as their economies continued to grow.

(China Daily April 20, 2004)

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