S.E. Asia sees vast potential in Russia economic ties

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Southeast Asia sees vast potential to grow trade and economic ties with Russia, leaders said Friday after the first ministerial level economic talks between the two sides.

Trade volume between Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is comparatively a "very, very modest" figure of about six billion dollars, said Vietnam's Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang.

In contrast, two-way trade last year between the 10-member bloc and China, its largest trade partner, exceeded 178 billion dollars, according to ASEAN data.

"We see a lot of potential" to boost the relationship with Russia, ASEAN deputy secretary general Pushpanathan Sundram told reporters at the close of meetings between ASEAN and its trade partners.

Russia joined those talks for the first time, sending Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina officials said, adding that the two sides agreed to develop a "roadmap" for economic and trade cooperation.

Efforts to increase economic links between Russia and ASEAN -- a market of almost 600 million people -- coincide with closer political links.

At a meeting in July, ASEAN agreed to invite Russia to join the East Asia Summit, a key regional dialogue on issues ranging from security to trade and the environment.

ASEAN also asked the United States to join the summit, which meets in October.

Diplomats said their inclusion would help to counterbalance the regional influence of China.

© 2010 AFP

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