By Nigar Orujova
Foreign trade transactions using the national currencies of Russia and Azerbaijan increased by 25-26 percent on both sides, said Deputy Minister of Economic Development of Russia Alexey Likhachev at the 15th meeting of the Russian-Azerbaijani intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation in Moscow.
“If you look at the figures of bilateral trade in rubles, we can see a steady growth. But we will work with the Central Bank of Russia on the expansion of settlements in national currencies,” said the deputy minister.
He said it would promote the development and diversification of trade, as well as reduce the risks associated with external factors.
“We once again invite Azerbaijani companies and suppliers to the Russian market as our ‘anti-sanctions’ create new opportunities for the supply of agricultural products, which enjoy a well-deserved reputation for many years in the Russian market,” Likhachev said.
The deputy minister added that the export of services has been growing. “We’ve been out for volumes of $0.5 billion turnover of services for a long time – this is a solid supplement to the income of companies working in the mutual market.”
He also noted the success of regional cooperation between the two countries.
“The past year has been notable for a significant intensification of inter-regional cooperation. Only in January-September this year, Azerbaijan was visited by delegations from 10 regions of Russia, and more than half of the delegations were headed by governors and regional leaders. On September 30, Yekaterinburg hosted the VI Russian-Azerbaijani Forum, the event gathered more than 400 people, both Russian and Azerbaijani companies were represented at the very highest level,” he recalled.
Relations with Azerbaijan meet Russia’s strategic interests
Russia and Azerbaijan have set a record in terms of bilateral trade, Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, said at the meeting.
“As of 2014, the trade turnover between the countries increased by 12 percent, reaching a historic high of $4 billion,” he said, stressing that their advanced level of bilateral relations meet strategic objectives.
“The Russia-Azerbaijan mutual trade volume has increased more than twofold since 2009,” Rogozin said. “Today the trade dynamics is one of the best in the CIS.”
However, Rogozin noted a negative trend that has been observed recently.
“Unfortunately, we saw a decline in the trade rate due to objective reasons as of the first seven months of this year,” he said. “The trade turnover reduced 23.2 percent to $1.7 billion. However, the total volume of freight shipments mainly remained steady.”
Rogozin said that industrial goods and agricultural products play an important role in trade between the two countries.
“The energy sector also plays an important role in the cooperation between the two countries,” he said. “Today, we discussed the work conducted by the group in the energy sector.”
Alexey Likhachev also confirmed the record, stressing that these are the highest figures in mutual trade volume so far between Russia and the CIS countries.
“Over $1.5 billion in Russian investments were made in Azerbaijan through the banking sector and such large companies as LUKOIL,” he said. “We also have around a $1.5 billion turnover of our services.”
Yagub Eyyubov, the First Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, said that the intergovernmental commission is doing all it can so that Azerbaijan-Russia relations remain at a high level.
“A large number of Azerbaijani people work in Russia,” he said. “Nobody oppresses them. On the contrary, all conditions were created for them.”
Rogozin also said that some 15,000 students receive their education in the Russian language in Azerbaijan, including at the branch of the Lomonosov Moscow State University.
“Some 9,000 Azerbaijani people study in Russian higher education institutions,” he said. “This once again shows the high level of relations between our countries.”
Azerbaijan, Russia intend to establish business council
Azerbaijan and Russia are considering a proposal to establish a business council, Polad Bulbuloglu, Azerbaijani ambassador to Russia, told reporters as part of the event.
This proposal was submitted for discussion at the bilateral intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation.
"Today, life sets new tasks,” the diplomat said. “So, the intergovernmental commission is very useful for both countries. I think that the establishment of the business council will also strengthen the work. We are optimistic about the future."
He appreciated the work of the intergovernmental commission, adding that many problems had been resolved as part of the current meeting.
“We are two friendly countries, so all the problems can be solved, there are no serious issues that cannot be solved,” the ambassador added.
At the end of the meeting, Rogozin and Eyyubov signed a protocol.
Long-time partners Russia and Azerbaijan now aim to strengthen economic cooperation. Around 600 Russian companies, including those with 100 percent Russian capital, work in Azerbaijan.
Currently, Azerbaijani-Russian relations have reached the level of strategic partnership. The all-around strengthening of cooperation with Russia has been and remains one of the main priorities of Azerbaijan's foreign policy.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz