|Primakov calls for increased trade between Russia and Arab states|
|More incentives need to be offered to investors
Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov called on Monday for further economic integration between Russia and the Arab states.
Primakov, the current president of Russia's chamber of commerce and industry, made his remarks at the opening of a one day meeting of the Russian-Arab Businessmen Council in Beirut.
"We (Russia) have an interest in boosting trade with the Arab countries because there are lots of similarities between the economies of both sides," Primakov said.
But the veteran politician warned that there are certain powers that are seeking to "darken the world based on religious principles," a clear reference to Islamic fundamentalist groups.
But most participants in this meeting admitted that the volume of trade between Russia and the Arab countries is very low.
According to the council, Russian exports to the Arab world in 2003 reached only $2.3 billion, or 1.7 percent of Russia's total exports to the world.
Arab exports to Russia are also trivial, standing at $200 million, or 0.27 percent of total exports to the world.
Russian exports to Lebanon in 2003 stood at $500 million while imports from Lebanon were $50 million.
"Arab investments in Russia are considered pitiful by all standards although there are a lot of investment opportunities in this country," one participant said.
Economy and Trade Minister Adnan Kassar said that Russia can play a bigger role in shaping the economy of the world after applying the market economy.
The president of the council Abdullah Gandour urged Arab companies to invest part of their massive assets in Russian technology.
He added that Russia and the Arab states should sign economic agreements and offer more incentives to investors.
Beirut,02 14 2005
The Daily Star