11/11/2006, 00.00
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Beijing and Moscow sign new energy deals

Deals in the energy, trade and space sectors have been signed in Beijing. Closer ties between the two powers could mean the emergence of a new axis capable of drawing in other states.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov yesterday met the Chinese president Hu Jintao and other Communist leaders for talks dominated by energy matters and to reach a deal satisfactory for both parties about the supply of petroleum and nuclear energy.

Fradkov arrived on 9 November and immediately met the premier Wen Jiabao in an atmosphere described by Wen as "friendly and frank". They participated in the closing ceremony of "The Year of Russia in China" and signed agreements of trade, technological and financial cooperation in the energy, automobile and space sectors.

Collaboration is in the pipeline between the Russian oil giant Rosneft and the China National Petroleum Corporation. Sergei Bogdanchikov, chief executive of Rosneft for Asia Pacific said the company will provide China with 20 million tons of oil by 2007, compared to the current volume of seven million. Also planned is a trans-Siberian pipeline that could supply China with as much as 30 million tonnes (about 219 million barrels) of crude oil annually. Moscow wants to identify more markets for its crude oil and for some time now, Beijing has been competing with Tokyo to grab Russian supplies. This year, Russia will supply Beijing with 11 million tons (81 million barrels) of crude oil through the East Siberian railway. Further, agreement has been reached between the Russian Federal Agency of Atomic Energy and the Chinese Committee on Defence Science, Technology and Defence Industry on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. There will also be collaboration in robotic space missions to the Moon and Mars.

Moreover, deals are anticipated that would export Russia's electricity to China at the rate of 60 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year. The energy will come from coal-fired plants to be built along the border between the two states, using Russian coal.

Overall trade between the two countries is also on the rise. The Russian vice-premier, Aleksandr Zhukov, predicted that it would reach a volume of 60 billion US dollars by 2010 (it was 29 billion in 2005). Chinese investments in Russia are expected to increase to up to 12 billion dollars by 2020. Other agreements in the pipeline cover mining products and the establishment of an automobile factory.

Analysts say that beyond the objective value of the accords, Russia has long been looking upon the East as a source of collaboration as an alternative to Europe. Meanwhile, China has interests in Russia's energy-rich resources and the Caucasus. Close collaboration between China and Russia could draw in other states in the region, like those of the Caucasus, some of which are already privileged partners of Russia and China through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

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