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Russian-Japanese trade rising, though abrupt jump is unlikely, says expert

The expert believes that the program for acceleration of economic ties between the two countries offered by the Japanese PM can open up new cooperation areas

TOKYO, March 21. /TASS/. Trade relations between Russia and Japan are currently on the rise, though an abrupt jump in trade turnover is unlikely this year, one of Japan’s leading experts on the relationship with Russia, deputy director of the Tokyo-based Institute for Russian & NIS Economic Studies Michitaka Hattori told TASS on Thursday.

"In 2018, there was a substantial rise in exports of Japanese cars and other goods to Russia, which experienced a revival in the economy," he said. "Prior to that it faced problems due to the Ukrainian crisis, which affected the volumes of Japanese deliveries. However, later they resumed growth amid economic recovery in Russia," he said.

"Japanese imports from Russia also increased in value terms, which is connected with the growth of energy prices. Mineral fuel accounts for around 70% of our country’s purchases from Russia. Physical volumes of imports of crude and liquefied natural gas from Russia did not go up last year, though the amount of purchases increased," the expert explained.

According to Michitaka Hattori, "one cannot say that there are no new tendencies in bilateral trade." "For example, there are interesting developments in terms of food purchases as imports of Russian sea food substantially rose," he said, adding that "energy resources are still the prime Russian product."

The expert believes that the program for acceleration of economic ties between the two countries offered by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe can open up new cooperation areas. "It is very important, though one can hardly expect the emergence of new groups of goods that could play the same role in bilateral trade as Russian energy resources and Japanese engineering products. There is a good chance that new areas of cooperation may appear over the long-term, though this year that is unlikely to happen, same as a sharp rise in trade turnover," he said, adding that the state of business environment in Russia and energy prices fluctuations will still define the nature of export-import operations between the countries for now.

According to the data provided by Japan’s Finance Ministry, bilateral trade reached almost $22.9 bln in 2018, a 15% increase compared with 2017. Japanese exports rose by 21%, while imports from Russia increased by 13% in dollar terms.

Over the past couple years, economic cooperation between the two countries has been based on a cooperation plan offered by Shinzo Abe at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 6, 2016. The plan includes efforts to foster relations between Japan and Russia in the energy sector, small and medium-sized businesses, the promotion of industrialization of the Far East, expansion of the export base, as well as the proposal to strengthen cooperation in the cutting-edge technologies, including nuclear energy, and the sphere of humanitarian exchanges.