Both China and Russia kept silent on the details of the consensus they reached on energy cooperation in the first round of their negotiation in Beijing on the weekend. The energy sector is the area the two countries have been working hard to develop for more cooperation.
They have agreed to initiate the negotiations on energy cooperation involving their vice-premiers.
Though holding their tongues, the Chinese and Russia negotiators – Vice-Premier Wang Qishan and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin – announced that the two countries have attached great importance to the cooperation in the energy sector.
It is clear that the first round was a good beginning of the negotiations between China and Russia on energy resources cooperation. China hopes it would cover crude oil trade, construction of oil and gas pipelines, prospecting and exploitation, refining and chemical industries.
As early as 2006 when former Russian President Vladimir Putin visited China, the two countries had agreed that their energy cooperation, as an important part of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership of cooperation, is of great importance for further deepening bilateral economic cooperation.
It seems that a shift of Russia's energy export policy is under way. Russia might turn its eyes from Western countries to the Asia-Pacific region in trying to find markets for its energy products. Now, 85 percent of Russia's oil and gas exports go to the European Union.
The cooperation in the energy sector is an issue of great significance for Sino-Russia relations. For Russia, more markets await its oil and gas, while China would find more energy suppliers.
Both countries want larger trade relations with each other. Russia is China's eighth largest trade partner while China the third largest for Russia. That is much too small a figure compared to the possibilities and the need for far larger trade.
The energy sector is the area of the possibilities that would lift the bilateral trade to a new level.
Russia is the world's largest energy exporter, and China is the second largest oil consumer. Such facts pave the foundation for their cooperation in the energy sector.
Still, the political and geographic closeness of the two countries would put their energy cooperation under a safe umbrella and make it a win-win deal. The China-Russia ties are at their best times, experts say. The two sides settled their lingering border disputes, held joint military exercises, and enjoyed rapidly increasing bilateral trade.
It is hoped that the positive outcome the Beijing round of negotiation has produced would be followed by more consensus between the two.
(China Daily July 28, 2008)