Sergei Naryshkin told reporters on the fringes of an international economic forum in Russia's second city that the step was unlikely to be taken in the near future, but that "theoretically it cannot be ruled out".
Rumors have been circulating of Gref's imminent departure, after Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov proposed at a cabinet meeting June 1 to effectively hive off part of Gref's ministry and make a separate trade ministry as a way to boost declining Russian exports.
A high-ranking source in the government said the idea was plausible, but was linked to cadre shortage and balance between trade and production, rather than the reason announced by Fradkov. A separate trade ministry should be staffed by at least 300 highly qualified professionals, he said.
"I believe that a separate ministry is not necessary, and where this function [trade] should be performed and how it should be integrated - with industry or the economy - remains open for discussion," the source said, adding that trade could become a function of the Ministry of Industry and Energy.