Russia-Turkey trade up 250% in past 5 yrs - trade watchdog

(RIA Novosti) - Trade between Russia and Turkey has more than tripled in five years, to reach $15.2 billion in 2005, Russia's trade chamber said Thursday.

Russia is the second largest importer to Turkey (9.3%), and ranks eighth as an export destination for Turkish goods (2.9%). Russian investments in Turkey stood at $200 billion in 2005, reports Trend.

"Trade between Russia and Turkey has risen nearly 3.5 times over in a short time," Yevgeny Primakov, head of the Russian Chamber of Trade and Commerce, told a bilateral roundtable in Moscow on the sidelines of a visit to the Russian capital by the Turkish president.

"In 2000, trade was $4.5 billion, and in 2005 $15.2 billion," he said, adding that the countries' presidents had agreed at their meeting in the Russian resort of Sochi on the Black Sea last year to swell bilateral trade to $25 billion in 2007.

Turkish President Ahmet Sezer was similarly bullish at a Kremlin meeting Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, reiterating that bilateral trade could be raised to $25 billion from the current $15 billion, and added for comparison that trade had stood at just $1.5 billion in 1991.

"We think we should not restrict ourselves to these figures - we can jointly increase trade to $25 billion," Sezer said, adding that the range of goods had to be expanded as well.

Halim Mete, vice president of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, said Russia was an important partner for his country, praised ambitions to increase trade and investment in 2007, and invited Russian businessmen to invest more heavily in Turkey.

Primakov said Turkish companies were involved in construction projects in Russia, and had signed contracts worth $5 billion in the past five years and built about 300 facilities. In all, Turkish investment in Russia was $2.3 billion as of early 2006, he said.

Another beneficial area is tourism, Primakov said, as Turkey is the most popular resort among Russians.

"In 2005 alone, 1.7 million Russian holiday-makers visited Turkey, spending $2 billion there," Primakov said.

Turkey's Mete in turn praised progress in cooperation in tourism, construction and transportation projects, as well as burgeoning interaction in the banking sector. But he said Turkish investors had complained about Russian customs services.

"I do not want to go into details, but they expect Mr. Primakov to help our entrepreneurs," he said.

Despite vibrant business cooperation, Primakov called for trade diversification, because about 70% of Russian exports to Turkey was energy supplies. However, he said Russian natural gas supplies to Turkey looked promising.

In 2005, supplies of Russian natural gas to Turkey hit 18 billion cu m, of which 5 billion cu m was pumped across the Black Sea through the Blue Stream pipeline, the largest Russian-Turkish joint energy project to date.

Primakov also said it was crucial to build underground gas storages in Turkey and complete the Turkish sector of the Panarab pipeline. Oil and gas projects on the Black Sea shelf and construction of electric power plants are also acquiring importance, he said.

Other important projects, he said, may include a ferry link from Russia's Caucasus ports to Turkey's Black Sea port of Samsun, construction of a shopping center and terminal at Moscow's Sheremetevo-1 airport, hotels and recreation parks in Russian regions, and housing projects.

Primakov also said Russia expected Turkish businessmen to be among the first to start work in Russia's six special economic zones.

"We expect to see Turkish entrepreneurs among the pioneers," he said, adding that special economic zones would have preferential terms, including in taxation, for businessmen and state-funded infrastructure.

Primakov also praised cooperation in high-tech industries, but called for greater promotion of newly developed products.

"Companies have to be set up to promote this technological progress," he said, adding that these companies should be small and medium-sized businesses, preferably joint ventures.

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