In response to an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Takashi Imai, chairman of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), said Tuesday the group will send a business mission to Russia by the end of June.

Attending a luncheon meeting with Japanese business leaders in Tokyo, Putin said such a mission would improve economic cooperation between the two nations.

He said Japanese businesses have much more room to invest in his country, pointing out that Japan’s investment in Russia accounts for just 1 percent of the nation’s total foreign investment.

Calling on participants to abandon their stereotyped views of Russia, Putin said his country has been reforming its legal system to create a reliable business environment for foreign investors.

Although the two nations have not signed a formal peace treaty to end World War II hostilities, they have been promoting economic ties since the 1960s with various projects, including oil and natural gas development on Sakhalin Island in Russia’s Far East.

However, Imai said bilateral economic exchanges have been stagnating since peaking in the late 1980s. He said annual bilateral trade has fallen to $4.2 billion in 1999 from $6.1 billion during the peak years.

Observers say the decline is in part due to the relatively shaky legal environment foreign investors faced in Russian markets.

“We are not satisfied with the present economic exchanges (by the private sector),” Imai said. “We hope Russia will reform its legal and tax systems so that more Japanese businesses will advance into the country.”

Japanese and Russian businesses will hold a joint meeting in Tokyo in October to discuss various economic issues, including projects on hydroelectric power, natural gas pipelines and revitalization of the Siberian railway. and other financial schemes.

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