France's Fillon visits Moscow to boost economic ties

9th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Thursday met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a visit aimed at boosting economic and trade ties between the two countries.

"Despite the difficulties of last year, we have succeeded in overcoming the economic crisis and reaching the trade volume level of 2008," Putin said at a bilateral intergovernment seminar organised annually by France and Russia.

"This means jobs, and a surge in industrial production. It's positive," Putin said. "We have things to discuss, many joint projects."

Fillon told Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily on Wednesday that he expected "numerous contracts" to be signed, notably a deal between French industrial group Alstom and Russian hydropower generator RusHydro to renovate dams in the Caucasus.

Other potential deals include a "joint enterprise in the field of air and sea navigation", between Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport and France's Safran-Sagem, he added.

Fillon said trade between the two countries had "multiplied by four between 2000 and 2008" but that it was too early to lift visa restrictions on travel between Russia and the European Union.

The issue of the possible sale of French Mistral-type warships to the Russian navy remains shrouded in suspense.

The two countries announced in March that they were in "exclusive negotiations" on the ships, each costing around 500 million euros, but Russia later announced an international tender to buy the helicopter carriers.

The negotiations have dragged over several months and are mired in controversy. While a deal would create French shipyard jobs, it has raised concerns among France's NATO allies.

© 2010 AFP

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