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Top legislator kicks off visit to Russia
By Shao Zongwei (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-24 10:22

China's top legislator Wu Bangguo arrived in Moscow Sunday after making a brief stop in Russia's Far East industrial city of Khabarovsk on Saturday, aiming to further promote regional co-operation.

During his meeting with Khabarovsk Krai Governor Victor I. Ishaev on Saturday, Wu, chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said that great potential remains for this Russian border region to develop partnerships with its Chinese neighbours, such as Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

According to a NPC spokesman, Wu suggested that the two governments should encourage and support major enterprises in their countries to participate in trade and economic co-operation and engage in large-scale projects.

He added that China and Russia need to properly handle the problems existing in trade and economic contacts, protecting those who abide by laws while cracking down on illegal business behaviour.

One of these may be the so-called "grey customs clearance" in which some Chinese enterprises, in order to save time and costs, turn to "customs clearance companies." These companies, permitted by the Customs Committee of Russia to provide "one-stop" services, enjoy favourable policies, such as estimating the overall duty of commodities according to their weight or volume instead of the value of each commodity.

However, they normally do not supply customs clearance manifests, which often put Chinese businessmen under suspicion of smuggling.

Wu also told his Russian host that management and construction of the border ports need to be enhanced for better efficiency and lower costs.

Ishaev, showing his interest in better economic co-operation with China, particularly mentioned energy and timber processing, saying that partnership in these fields serves the interest of both countries.

Bilateral trade has increased steadily in recent years. Last year, the Sino-Russian trade volume exceeded US$15.7 billion. Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao expressed hopes last year that two-way trade could reach US$20 billion soon.

Wu's visit is by far the highest-level exchange involving Chinese leaders to Russia this year.

"I hope that the visit will further strengthen understanding, enhance trust, expand consensus and deepen mutually-beneficial exchanges, and promote the China-Russia strategic partnership," said Wu in a written statement released upon arriving in Khabarovsk.

Wu is scheduled to hold separate talks with the Chairman of the Council of Federation of the Russian Federal Assembly Sergey M. Mironov and State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov today.

He will meet President Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. He will also take part in a form attended by Chinese and Russian businessmen and officials from the border regions.

Russia is the first leg of Wu's 14-day four-nation visit which will also take him to Bulgaria, Denmark and Norway.

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