By Svetlana Andreyeva
Trade turnover between Russia and China is expected to reach some $70 billion by the end of the year, according to figures revealed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during his visit to Beijing. This is what he said following the meeting with his counterpart, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Wen Jiabao: “Our bilateral trade appears set to reach new heights. Let me remind you that we reached our pre-crisis trade peak in 2008, with trade at a little under $56 billion. This year, it is certain to reach $70 billion and perhaps even $80 billion.” Putin expressed confidence that the two countries are able to bring their bilateral trade up to $100 billion before 2015 and then double this figure by 2020.
China has recently pushed Germany aside to become Russia’s largest trade partner, with their bilateral cooperation growing stronger in many respects, the Russian prime minister stressed. Russian-Chinese economic contacts should not be only considered through the prism of hydrocarbon supplies, he said, adding that the parties implement a wide range of joint projects both in traditional fields and new technologies, mechanical engineering and the aircraft industry.
When meeting with Chinese leader Hu Jintao, Vladimir Putin said he was glad to have a chance to discuss the whole range of bilateral relations. According to him, Russia pins high hopes on the Chinese president’s support of the plans developed by the two sides’ governments. Hu Jintao, in his turn, welcomed the Russian PM, calling him “an old friend of the Chinese people”, and said he was pleased that even despite his tight schedule, Mr. Putin found an opportunity to come to China, which only reveals the importance he attaches to the development of bilateral relations.
The day before, Mr. Putin met with Chinese journalists who were mainly interested in the two countries’ gas and oil contracts. “I don’t think that natural gas supplies are key to our cooperation,” he said, adding that Moscow and Beijing should make “cooperation in high-tech spheres” their top priority, without focusing a lot on traditional cooperation areas, such as machine-building.
Those attending the news conference were also interested in Russia’s domestic politics, namely reasons behind Vladimir Putin’s decision not to run for presidency in 2012.
“Jointly with incumbent President Dmitry Medvedev, we’ve reached an absolutely right decision that does not weaken but only strengthens the Russian system of government. We also expect the support of voters. Russia has successfully overcome a difficult period in its history linked to the world financial crisis. And before the crisis, during my presidential term, we halved the number of people living beyond the poverty line and nearly doubled Russia’s economic growth. We are perfectly aware of what we have to do and how to do it in order to attain maximum results in terms of the country’s economic and social development. I therefore think we have reason to let the citizens of Russia consider our proposal for both parliamentary and presidential elections,” Mr. Putin said.
As for Russian plans to join the World Trade Organization, Mr. Putin emphasized that major obstacles have been overcome and this purely political issue will now depend on Moscow’s main partners in Europe and the United States.
“We are willing to join the WTO, primarily because this will increase the level of confidence in our economy and procedures within this economy. We have brought our laws in accordance with the WTO demands and reached agreement with all our major negotiation partners. Today, this has become a purely political matter; if our partners in Europe and the United States would like us to join the WTO then the organization itself would be really universal. It existed without us and will keep existing, but it would be better if the world’s oil production leader was part of the WTO. The country also has great opportunities in other spheres influencing global trade,” Vladimir Putin stressed.
According to the Russian PM, those working in different industries take a different approach to the country’s WTO membership: someone considers this step necessary, others believe that some of the sectors cannot be called sufficiently competitive to join the organization. Vladimir Putin said that in general, this will have a positive effect on the Russian economy, but only if Russia joins the organization “on standard terms and with compulsory agreements to protect certain sectors of the Russian economy until they become truly competitive.”
Among other things, the head of government thanked China for supporting Russia in its desire to become a full-fledged WTO member.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is spending two days in China against the backdrop of $1 trillion gas deal. Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and Dmitri Kosyrev, a political analyst with Moscow-based RIA-Novosti news agency, discuss the significance of Mr. Putin’s visit for the China-Russia relations.