India, Russia mull free trade agreement

Russia and India, moving towards enhanced economic cooperation, on Thursday showed political intent to work towards a free trade agreement regime that will help both the countries realise the full potential of their resources.

The total trade between the two countries currently stands at $8.5 billion. Indian investments in Russia stand at $5 billion while that of Russia in India stand at $3.5 billion.

Russia has also agreed to initiate the consultation with their customs partners Kazakhstan and Belarus on the issue.

"The economic cooperation can no longer be limited to purchase of defence equipment or investment in oil and gas. It must extend beyond government to trade and investment. Our common target is to achieve $20 billion in trade by 2015 and this can only be done through broad based extensive business cooperation," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said after a bilateral meeting with Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Elvira Nebullina.

Sharma, who is on a three-day visit to attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2011, also took up the issue of increased market access for Indian manufacturers in Russia, mainly in the pharma and agricultural products sector.

Making a case for equivalence in quality standards for Indian companies, the commerce minister sought ease of rules for the companies in the pharma sector.

He said that specific steps like setting up production units in Russia, streamlining registration process, sharing of information on drugs imported by Russia, setting up a task force, and market access for drugs that are exported to the US, EU and Japan, need to be taken up. "The Indian pharmaceutical products are of international standards and cheaper than other markets on an average by 30-40 per cent," he said.

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