Russia Turkmenistan trade ties looking up

Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has flown to gas-rich Turkmenistan to tie up a trade and economic cooperation deal. Zubkov says business relations with the Central Asian state are developing faster than with other CIS countries.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union Russian-Turkmen economic dialogue's been dominated by gas. The EU and United States have rival schemes to win access to the world's 4th largest energy reserves, much of which remain untapped.

Russia says it now wants to work with Ashkhabad in industry, transport and technology, according to First deputy Prime Minister, Viktor Zubkov.

“Russia's leading companies are currently developing interesting projects with Turkmenistan. Lukoil for example's launching 3 oil and gas deposits in the country. The initial investment will be about 700 mln usd, in future the figure may rise to 10 billion. However it's also very important to develop scientific and technical cooperation. Russia and Turkmenistan are both interested in strengthening its humanitarian ties.”

Bilateral trade's expected to reach 6 billion dollars by the end of the year. However natural gas still makes up 86% of that.

The signed agreement was aimed at diversifying the Russian-Turkmen relationship from oil and gas and developing partnerships in other sectors and small business. Currently there are 113 companies with Russian capital operating in Turkmenistan. A good example of this is the Turkmeni office of Russian car maker KAMAZ, which will supply the country with over 2500 vehicles this year.

The two sides signed a deal easing bilateral customs procedures. Zubkov visited the first National Exhibition of Russian firms looking to invest in the state.  Aleksandr Uzyanov, Marketing Director of Agromash, says his firm is one of those looking to move in.

“Tomorrow we will test our combine harvester on Turkmen land. Hopefully after that we'll be able to establish permanent supply of our machinery to the country.”

Zubkov also opened a branch of the Russian State Oil and Gas University in the Turkmen capital. Experts say energy generation will continue to dominate the countries' economic relations.