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Chinese delegation in Moscow over market closure
Updated: 2009-07-25 19:45

MOSCOW: A senior delegation led by Chinaese Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng met with Russian officials on Friday and Saturday over the sudden closure of a market in Moscow.

On June 29, some 150 Chinese merchants and a large quantity of their goods were seized in a crackdown on smuggling at the Cherkizovsky Market, Moscow's biggest wholesale market.

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The market was subsequently closed, causing heavy economic loss to the Chinese merchants who operate businesses there. No word has been given as to when the market will reopen.

Gao stressed the China-Russia strategic partnership of cooperation during his consultations with Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Migration Service, Yuri Buriak, Deputy Economic Development Minister, Andrei Slepnyov, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Borodavkin.

Gao also spoke of the recent state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Russia, the upcoming regular China-Russia Prime Minister's meeting in Beijing in October, and celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

He said under such circumstances, China and Russia should try to maintain their friendship and mutual trust, and properly handle problems arising from the development of bilateral ties.

Non-governmental trade between China and Russia has its complicated historical origins, Gao said, and the remarkable contributions of Chinese merchants to the economic prosperity of Russia, especially during difficult times, should be taken into consideration.

He said against the backdrop of the current global financial and economic crisis in particular, to deal with the abrupt shutdown of the Cherkizovsky market appropriately and scrupulously would be mutually beneficial to China and Russia.

China has no objections to Russia's crackdown on smuggling, he said, but Moscow should effectively protect the property and dignity of Chinese businessmen.

Russian officials from relevant ministries and departments all agreed that the market shutdown would not affect the long-time friendship between the two countries.

They also emphasized that the shutdown was aimed at smuggling and not against the Chinese merchants, who make up less than 40 percent of all the merchants there.

The Russian side also urged the Chinese merchants to comply with laws, and said the Moscow municipal government had started to help merchants move their goods.

Slepnyov said a collective work plan against "grey customs clearances" will soon be studied.

Gao, who arrived in Moscow on Wednesday, was accompanied by a delegation comprising of officials from the ministries of commerce and foreign affairs, the General Administration of Customs, and trade officials from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.

The delegation has also held negotiations with the Investigation Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, the Federal Customs Service and the Moscow municipal government.