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Russia's Putin holds talks with China's Hu
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Oct 12, 2011

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held talks with China's president on Wednesday, after saying negotiations to secure a huge gas deal with the world's top energy consumer were progressing.

Putin, in Beijing on his first foreign visit since he announced plans to reclaim the Russian presidency, said after meeting China's Premier Wen Jiabao Tuesday that talks on the long-delayed gas deal were nearing their final stage.

But his spokesman has downplayed the prospect of a final agreement during the two-day official visit, which has so far yielded $7 billion in trade deals in energy, finance and agriculture.

China became Russia's top trading partner for the first time last year and the two countries want to increase trade from $70 billion this year to $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2020.

China's President Hu Jintao said Putin's visit had led to progress in the "Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic relationship", but made no comment on a major agreement Russia signed in 2009 to pump gas to China for 30 years.

"We are close to the final stage of work on gas supplies to Chinese market," Putin told journalists Tuesday of the agreement, which has for years been mired in disagreements over pricing.

"Those who sell always want to sell at a higher price, while those who buy, want to buy at a lower price. We need to reach a compromise which will satisfy both sides."

The agreement was signed between Russian gas giant Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corporation, and could eventually see almost 70 billion cubic metres of Russian gas sent to China annually over the 30-year period.

China's sovereign wealth fund also signed a deal to invest into a new Russian state-backed fund, to encourage foreign direct investment in Russia, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP.

The China Investment Corporation will put $1 billion into the Russian Direct Investment Fund, founded in June with backing from Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The two countries also agreed on a price for Russian oil exported to China through a cross-border pipeline that started operating at the beginning of the year, the official China Daily newspaper said.

Russia had accused China of underpaying it by tens of millions of dollars due to a tariff dispute, but Putin said the two sides had "agreed on crude oil prices", the report said.

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