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China-Russia Trade on Track to Hit an All-Time High This Year at Over $100 Billion

Will top the $84 billion in 2017, and the $95 billion before the sanctions crisis alike

Trade turnover between Russia and China was up by more than a quarter (28.2%) in the first ten months of this year to $87.2bn, putting the partners on course to top $100bn of total turnover this year, China's General Administration of Customs said on November 7, as cited by Tass.

Russia trade turnover with China year to date has already exceeded last year’s full year result of $84bn.

Over the last 10 months, Russia’s exports to China grew by 13% and exceeded $39.27bn. Imports of Russian goods and services increased by 44% to $47.97bn. In October, the bilateral trade turnover stood at $10bn.

The two countries set a target to hit $100bn of trade turnover a few years ago, but that was stymied by the “silent crisis” years of 2014-2016 that hurt both their economies. However, if trade continues to expand at the same pace as over the first eight months of this year trade turnover should top $100bn by the end of this year.

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In 2016, trade turnover between China and Russia grew by 2.2% and reached $69.52bn. In 2017, it increased by 20.8% to $84.07bn.

More recently Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping set a new goal of $200bn by 2020 and at the current rate of expansion this looks entirely achievable. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the mutual trade turnover was a bit less than $5bn.

The EU remains Russia’s biggest trading partner with a turnover of €231bn in 2017, but thanks to sanctions and Russia’s counter trade sanctions the turnover has fallen dramatically from €285bn since 2014.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reiterated the new $200bn goal for bilateral trade between Russia and China. Medvedev is in China at the moment as part of the regular inter-government meetings.

"Bilateral trade is actively developing, and this year we will approach the level of $100bn, which seemed fantastic to us 10 years ago; now we are speaking about other levels, about the possibility of reaching $200bn of trade turnover, and I believe this figure to be quite realisable for our countries if we actively promote cooperation in the agreed spheres," Medvedev said at a press conference after the 23rd regular meeting between the Russian and Chinese government heads.

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The trade flow between the two countries is well balanced, with imports and exports more or less in balance. "Russian exports to China amounted to around $26bn in the first half of the year, a 43% increase compared with the same period last year. That means it will be over $50bn at about $50bn-54bn by the year end," Medvedev said.

And Russia is beginning to diversify its exports to China from just supplying oil and gas.

"We see ties expanding on traditional goods, such as timber, metals, chemistry and the like, agricultural trade has risen 1.5-fold since the beginning of the year. Green cosmetics and children’s goods are becoming increasingly popular. A big number of energy and high-tech projects are being implemented. There are agreements regarding a joint project on heavy helicopters, cooperation is developing in space and energy fields," Medvedev added. 

However, energy remains important. In 2017, Russia became the largest oil supplier to China. Work is underway to increase the capacity of the Russian-Chinese oil pipeline, the construction of a gal pipeline continues according to schedule.

China is also an investor into the Russian project to build a new LNG gas plant on Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. The plant’s first phase went online earlier this has year and a second phase is planned.

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Russia and China are also cooperating on nuclear energy. On July 8, the two countries signed seven documents that included a framework contract on the construction of the seventh and eighth units of the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant, a contract for the construction of the VVER-1000 water-power reactors at a new Chinese facility and an intergovernmental agreement on the construction of a CFR-600 demonstration fast neutron reactor in China.

"The implementation of these agreements will lay the foundation of a long-term and mutually beneficial partnership in the nuclear energy sector," the Russian government said in a statement.

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