'At the present time economic cooperation between Russia and Israel is fairly robust, but it is still far from reaching its potential,' said Israeli Transportation Minister and Our Home - Israel political party chairman Avigdor Liberman on radio station Ekho Moskvy yesterday. According to Liberman, who is also the chairman of the Russian-Israeli intergovernmental commission for bilateral economic cooperation, total annual trade turnover between Russia and Israel is approximately USD 1.3 billion. Although Liberman pointed out that annual trade turnover 'is more than USD 2 billion because official data does not include cooperation in the military industrial complex and oil sales.'
Liberman also said that many trade deals between Russian and Isreali companies are concluded 'on distant islands because we still haven't developed legislation between the two countries to protect investment. Our commission must develop such a legal base. I am hopeful that tomorrow we will sign an agreement on marine cooperation with my Russian colleague Transportation Minister Sergey Frank and also move forward in the area of developing legislation on investment protection.'
He added that it is very important to also develop bilateral cooperation for small and medium-sized business. 'Large business does not need government support, it always finds its needed partners and has its ties in the government. On the other hand, small and medium-sized business is the primary form of business in Israel. We want to try to reach and agreement with our Russian colleagues on a work model on the level of the federal government and regions.'
Liberman believes that one new area of cooperation could be the participation of Russian companies in Israeli projects such as the development of a railroad network. 'Israel is current rebuilding its entire infrastructure system. We are investing approximately USD 8 billion in the development of our railroad network over the next five years and we would like Russian companies to participate in our tender offerings,' said Liberman. He is confident that such participation will be mutually beneficial for Russian business and Israel. 'Russian companies could become still one more serious competitor, which could seriously lower the prices on the work, which is currently being carried out by Western companies,' said Liberman.