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Russia and Latin America are strategic partners — Russian expert

November 05, 2015, 8:29 UTC+3 HAVANA

It is 100% true in terms of politics and geopolitics, however in terms of economic cooperation, Russia and Latin America are yet to become strategic partners, an expert says

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© Sergey Savostyanov/TASS

HAVANA, November 5. /TASS/. Latin America and Russia are strategic partners, Tatiana Mashkova, director general of Russia’s National Committee for Promoting Economic Cooperation with Latin American Countries, said in an interview with TASS on Wednesday.

"Russia and Latin America are undoubtedly strategic partners," she said.

Mashkova is taking part in the Russian-Cuban Business Forum, a business mission of Russian companies in Cuba organized on the sidelines of the 33rd international fair FIHAV-2015 underway in the Cuban capital city of Havana.

Partnership as a Challenge

"On the one hand, the slogan ‘Latin America is Russia’s strategic partner’ furnishes good possibilities for work, but, on the other hand, it is a challenge to work better," she said, adding that Russia needed Latin America "from the political and geopolitical point of view." Economic cooperation, in her words, was no less important for Russia. However, "it is not a natural economic cooperation like, for instance, trans-border cooperation," she noted. In this sense, "China is a much more natural partner for Russia," she said. "Nonetheless, we need to have a good partner, a good friend in this hemisphere too."

However, Mashkova called to be serious and cautious when saying that Russia and Latin America were strategic partners. "In terms of politics and geopolitics, it was 100% true but in terms of economic cooperation, Russia and Latin America are yet to become strategic partners," she said, adding that strategic partnership implied much bigger trade.

As of today, in her words, trade between Russia and Latin America was "near zero." Moreover, she said, there was a "sad" imbalance in trade. "Strange as it might seem but Russia imports from Latin America much more than it exports there," the Russian expert said. "For years, the structure of Russia’s export-import has been staying unchanged. We buy food and agricultural products — fish, wines, vegetables and fruits — from Latin America and sell fertilizers."

Changes in Trade

In the meantime, a range of new contracts have been recently signed so that "this structure is to change in the near future," Mashkova noted. Thus, Russia is lending 1.2 billion euro to Cuba to modernize four energy units at the Maximo Gomez and Eastern Havana thermal power plants. Apart from that, a sum of 100 million U.S. dollars has been allocated to overhaul the Jose Marti Antillana de Acero metallurgical works. "It will somewhat brighten our foreign trade statistics," she said.

"There is some progress with Chile too," she noted, with Russia’s Kamaz truck manufacturer demonstrating increased activity on the Latin American market. However, she said, the situation around Russian-made trucks was not that simple. "Our truck, which can boast numerous wins in rallies and which enjoy high popularity across the globe, are very expensive on the Latin American market," she said, adding that it might be expedient to organize assembly production in Latin American countries. Moreover, another problem, in her words, was the absence of maintenance centers and reliable stocks of spare parts and components. Big plants were taking efforts to solve this problem to stand tough competition, she underscored.

Thus, about seven Kamaz maintenance centers are planned to be set up in Chile by the end of 2016. In Cuba, Kamaz is represented via Tatarstan’s export agency. Russia hopes more Kamaz maintenance centers will be organized in the special development zone in Port Mariel.

Is Lada Coming Back to Latin America?

Another area of cooperation, according to Mashkova, could be exports of Russian-made Lada cars, which had once enjoyed high popularity on the Latin American market. Now, however, it was necessary to study potential demand, foe which ends a batch of 40 Lada cars, including its new models, had been offered for sale in Chile.

Cuba, she said, had expressed interest to use these cars in the tourism sector and now Russia was looking at supplying some seven-seater Lada cars to Cuba. "If this project pays off, we can think about a next step," she said.

Ambition and Geography

Russia and Latin America are interested in each other, she once again stressed. "A strategic partner is a state with which lasting and sustainable development of trade and economic ties is possible," the Russian expert said. "We are only striving for that with Latin America. We need Latin America as political and geopolitical partner and I think Latin America is also interested in us."

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