Russian & Australian businessmen improve trade

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has arrived in Australia to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum in Sydney. Regional security and economic relations are expected to dominate talks. Also in Australia, in the city of Brisbane, Russian

Sergey Lavrov is expected to touch upon Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organisation. He is planning to hold individual meetings, including one with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A series of ‘Russian’ events are to be held in Australia in the coming week. One of them is a Russian-Australian business forum in Brisbane. Despite the huge distance between the two countries, economic ties have been developing fast.

Investments go both ways in the mining sector. For example, Russian RUSAL Company has recently made an acquisition worth about 600 MLN Australian dollars, and Australian BHP Billiton has invested in Russian mining.

Apart from aluminium, Russia would like to expand co-operation with Australia in the nuclear sector. Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of uranium, a metal which after enrichment is used as fuel for nuclear reactors. Concerning Russia’s plans to build dozens of nuclear power plants both at home and abroad in the coming years, uranium will obviously be in high demand.

However critics say selling uranium to Russia could jeopardize global non-proliferation efforts. Ian Macfarlane, Australian minister for industry, tourism and resources, dismissed these concerns, pointing out that the country’s trade in the radioactive material with Russia has a long record: “We’ve been selling uranium to Russia for a number of years now for Russia to enhance it and sell on. But enrichment of uranium is only part of the equation. And what we are now looking at is negotiating on agreement where Russia can enrich uranium for its own use,” the official said.

Another important sector for co-operation is food export. Russia is buying a lot of Australian meat. Australian wines and fruit are also popular in Russia, and as a ‘tribute’ to that the Russian delegation in Brisbane is headed by Minister of Agriculture Aleksey Gordeyev.

“Russia and Australia are two of the five largest producers and exporters of grain. Today the tension in the grain market is increasing and we have to join our efforts. I shall propose creating an international organization to co-ordinate this sphere,” said Mr Gordeyev.

The trade between the two countries has been growing rapidly, it advanced by 65% last year, exceeding $US 700 MLN, but they hope that the forum, as well as the upcoming visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Sydney, will help boost the trade even further.