Japan and Russia agreed to reinvigorate bilateral trade and economic ties by focusing on the Russian Far East, a place where the two countries can best benefit each other, government officials said June 9.

Boris Nemtsov, first deputy prime minister for Russia, visited Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda and Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka in Tokyo on June 9 during the second meeting of the Japanese-Russian joint committee on trade and economic ties.

At the Foreign Ministry, Nemtsov, who assumed his post in early March, told Ikeda that Russia considers Japanese investment, especially in such sectors as energy and marine products, crucial to building bilateral economic ties, ministry officials said. The two agreed that the focus of improvement in the two countries’ economic relations would be Russia’s Far East, which is rich in lumber and other resources, the officials said.

Trade between Japan and Russia in 1996 has declined by about 17 percent from the previous year, but was rising as recently as from 1993 to 1995, according to ministry officials. They said investment also declined in 1996.

Earlier in the day, at the Finance Ministry, Nemtsov told Mitsuzuka that progress was being made on the Russian side to remove obstacles to trade and investment, officials said. He cited such developments as the rescheduling of debts between Japanese trading houses and Russian companies that has long been considered a stumbling block to increasing Japanese investment in Russia.

He also told Mitsuzuka that he hopes to see smaller Japanese trading firms expanding their business in Russia and specifically touched upon the need for more direct investment in the areas of natural resource development and food processing. The deputy prime minister was scheduled to attend a signing ceremony later in the day to pave the way for the extension of credit from the Japan Export-Import Bank to three projects in Russia — an auto factory, a baby food factory and a clinic.

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