Putin expects to agree to China gas deal
Beijing (CNN) — Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia is close to sealing an energy supply agreement with China worth $1 trillion.
“It’s fair to say that we’re very close to reach an agreement on the natural gas deal.” Putin told the journalists at a joint press conference after meeting with Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao.
Putin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a two-day visit. He also met with President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders on Wednesday.
The negotiations over the natural gas supply had stalled for more than a year due to disagreements over price.
If an agreement can be reached, the deal would see Russia supply China with up to 68 billion cubic meters of gas every year.
“The trade volume will increase significantly, and this will change the fact that the economic cooperation between the two countries lags behind the political cooperation,” said Zhao Huasheng, director of the Center for Russia and Central Asia Studies at Fudan University.
“Together with cooperation in other economic fields, China and Russia will become real strategic partners in economic terms,” he added.
Recent years have seen a steady increase in trade between the two countries.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade volume in the year to July increased by 37.4% to a record $42.2 billion. The ministry forecasts that this will reach a new record in 2011– possibly in excess of $70 billion.
“The economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has reached to an unprecedented level,” Putin said in an interview with the state-run Xinhua agency.
But energy cooperation stands out as the main focus between Russia, a major energy exporter, and China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, according to a 2010 report from the International Energy Agency.
Putin has also brought along a group of 160 Russian business leaders for the visit, including the CEOs of Russian energy giants Gazprom, Rosneft and aluminum producer UC RUSAL.
During Putin’s visit, Chinese vice Premier Wang Qishan also met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to discuss energy needs.
“We’re discussing opening new energy transportation routes,” explained Putin at the joint press conference.
On January 2011, China and Russia opened an oil pipeline from Daqing, northeast China, to Skovorodino in eastern Russia.
The line is 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) and aims to provide 15 million metric tons of oil annually to China.