MOSCOW, December 09. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia and Israel have set up a research group to draft a free trade area agreement and it will start working shortly, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said.
“The research group will start working within the next several weeks in order to draft a free trade area agreement,” Dvorkovich said at a meeting of the co-chairs of the bilateral commission on trade and economic cooperation in Moscow on Monday, December 9.
“Based on the analysis of benefits such a potential agreement can give us, we will complete this process in the foreseeable future and find a sound basis for the agreement,” he said.
Bilateral trade between Russia and Israel has reached about three billion U.S. dollars, and “we hope to increase it to at least 3.5 billion U.S. dollars a year in the near future,” the deputy prime minister said, adding that this would require a number of steps, including in the field of trade in agricultural products.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman noted that the free trade area agreement “is one of the main areas and one of the most central topics of our work in 2014.”
“I think we should set ourselves the task of getting this agreement finished for it will send a signal not only to the public but also to the private sector,” the minister said.
Dvorkovich said that Russian energy companies were interested in cooperation with Israel. “Companies like Gazprom, Zarubezhstroy, E4 Group and some others have shown a special interest,” he said.
“We would like mutually advantageous agreements to be reached on this matter shortly,” Dvorkovich added.
Another important area of cooperation is Israeli investments in Russia. “One of the areas of cooperation where we expect Israeli investments is agriculture,” he said.
Lieberman is in Moscow with a delegation that includes the heads of several Israeli ministries.
“Israel shows interest in signing a free trade agreement with the Customs Union [of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia],” a source in the Israeli Embassy said earlier.
In 2012, Russian-Israeli trade turnover was about three billion U.S. dollars and increased by 29 percent in the first eight months of this year.
President Vladimir Putin has noted the intrinsic value of Russian-Israeli relations in the economic and humanitarian spheres.
“Russian-Israeli relations have their intrinsic value and I hope we will discuss them today,” he said at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on November 20.
Putin named a number of areas where the two countries had been successfully cooperating: energy, space, aviation, and nanotechnologies.
The president said the discussion at the talks would also touch upon pressing international issues.
Netanyahu said that relations between the two countries had been “on the rise” in recent years largely owing to Putin and expressed hope that his talks in Moscow would contribute to the maintenance of peace and security in the region and the world.
Russia and Israel are also. close to signing an agreement on pension insurance of Russian citizens living in Israel. Dvorkovich said: “Most technical problems have been solved. We’ll end the process within weeks.