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26 Mar, 2019 14:02

Russia-US trade turnover hit $25 billion & rising despite sanctions – Lavrov

Russia-US trade turnover hit $25 billion & rising despite sanctions – Lavrov

Washington’s sanctions against Moscow have not stopped bilateral trade from steadily growing over the past two years and it stood at $25 billion in 2018, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“This is less than the record-high level of $31 billion in 2011 but much better than the figures that we were at when the Obama administration decided to destroy the basis of our cooperation,” Lavrov said on Tuesday during a meeting with representatives of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia.

In his opening remarks, the minister said that Russia is always open for US business, but the cooperation between the two sides could be much better.

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“Today Russian-US cooperation falls short of its potential,” Lavrov said, adding that Moscow would like to give “an additional impetus for our economic and investment cooperation.”

However, mutual investments have remained on the rise and US companies are still interested in the Russian market and vice versa. Russia wants to further improve the investment climate and attract foreign firms, including from the US, by creating better conditions for foreign businesses.

But Europe and the US want businesses to understand the need “to sacrifice economy for politics,” Lavrov stressed. Such an approach “contradicts the interests of businesses and the need to create more jobs” and many in the West already agree with it, he explained.

Ways to boost bilateral cooperation were discussed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump at their Helsinki summit in July 2018. During the meeting the leaders floated the idea of setting up a special group involving heads of major private companies from each side.

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs had already sent its suggestions on the matter to their US counterparts, but without a response. The silence from Washington might be the result of the political environment dominating in the US, Lavrov explained.

Washington has slapped multiple rounds of sanctions on Russian individuals and entities over its reunification with Crimea, alleged involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and alleged meddling in the US elections among other pretexts.

US allies, including the EU, followed Washington’s lead and introduced their own restrictions targeting Russia. Moscow retaliated by imposing an embargo on agricultural products, food, and raw materials from countries that joined in the sanctions. Mutual sanctions have been extended several times since.

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