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June 20, 2017

China, Russia expand common ground for regional development


June 20, 2017

HARBIN: As China is adding investment to revive the "rust belt" in its northeastern provinces, Russia is also looking to boost the economy in its Far East, which brings tremendous opportunities for the two geographically adjacent regions, experts and government officials said at a high- level forum at the 4th China-Russia Expo which closed Monday.

Andrey Ostrovsky, deputy director of Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the Russian Far East covers 36 percent of the country's territory, but has less than 5 percent of its population.

It is rich in natural resources but poor in infrastructure, similar to China's northeastern region. "Strengthened cross-border cooperation has become a feasible alternative to help promote regional development on both sides," said Ostrovsky, who is also vice chairman of Russia-China Friendship Association.

He said the development of Siberia and the Far East is one of the mostcomplicated tasks for the Russian government, and integrating these areas into the Silk Road Economic Belt building is an important way for them to share thebenefits of cooperation and development with Asia-Pacific countries.

Over the past years, the development of the Far East has increasingly becomea national strategy and top agenda for the Russian government, which hasestablished a ministry to take charge of it.

Alexander Galushka, minister for the Development of the Russian Far East,said Russia and China have shared interests in the development of the region. Thecooperation between the two countries in developing it largely contributes to thepairing of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative with the Russia-ledEurasian Economic Union.

"The Russian Far East is adjacent to China's northeastern provinces, but haslimited land transportation infrastructure. More overland cross-borderinfrastructure is required to make full use of the geographic advantages incommerce and trade between the two areas," the minister said.

The two countries have made progress in infrastructure cooperation. Currently, they are building the Nizhneleninskoye-Tongjiang railway bridge andBlagoveshchensk-Heihe road bridge, which will provide China with convenientaccess to seaports and the Russian Far East with an additional cargo base.

Galushka said a "China commercial service center" is planned to assist Chinesemerchants doing business in the area. According to the minister, about 20 joint commercial projects are beingimplemented in the Russian Far East, involving agriculture, petrochemicalengineering, raw materials, logistics and tourism, and another four are underdiscussion.

The total investment of those projects are estimated at about 6 billion U.S. dollars. "There is huge potential for commercial cooperation between China and Russiain the Far East. If fully tapped, the aggregated investment is expected to top60 billion dollars," the minister said.

Vladimir Miklushevskiy, governor of Russia's Primorsky Territory, said the territory has the longest stretch of Russia's land border with China, which is a competitive advantage in further building business ties with the neighboringcountry. The governor said another 300 billion Russian rubles will be invested toupgrade the international transport corridors "Primorye-1" and "Primorye 2" connecting the Chinese provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin with Primorsky.

"The expanded corridors will further boost investment in the near future andthe upgrade is worthwhile," he said. Sergey Paltov, consul general of Russian Consulate-General in the city ofShenyang, said Russia has noticed the increasing enthusiasm of Chinese investorstoward the development of the Russian Far East area.

Customs clearance will be streamlined starting from August, along with moreconvenient visa on arrival and e-visa measures, to facilitate Chinese investorsentering Vladivostok and other parts of the Russian Far East for economic,tourism and cultural cooperation, the consul general said.



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