Chinese officials on Thursday signed preliminary agreements to invest about US$1.5 billion (Ђ1.22 billion) in construction, timber, agriculture and other industries in Russia.
The largest of eight projects signed on the first day of the two-day Russia-China Investment Forum envisages Chinese companies investing some US$1.25 billion (Ђ1.02 billion) into building a housing complex in St. Petersburg.
Other agreements included Chinese investments in the timber industries of Russia's far-eastern Khabarovsk region, which borders China, and an agricultural business in northwestern Novgorod region.
German Gref, Russia's trade and economic development minister, said the agreements represented a "change in the quality of our cooperation." The agreements "show that the geography of Russian-Chinese cooperation is rather wide," he said.
Gref said the volume of bilateral trade grew by about one-third to US$21.3 billion (Ђ17.4 billion) last year, and is expected to reach US$60 billion (Ђ49 billion) by 2010. Chinese investments in Russia grew by 82 percent last year, he said.
Ma Kai, head of China's top economic planning agency, said investments were the "engine of Russian-Chinese cooperation."
Gref noted, however, that the lack of investment experience on the corporate level and bureaucratic barriers were slowing down investment.
Ma said China wants to speed up the signing of an agreement with Russia on mutual protection of investments.