ST. PETERSBURG, September 6 (RIA Novosti) - Japan could invest up to $50 billion in Russia's economy, a deputy minister of economic development and trade said Wednesday.
Hundreds of representatives of the business community and government circles have convened in St. Petersburg for the first Russian-Japanese investment forum, which opened Wednesday.
Kirill Androsov was upbeat on the future of ties between the two countries. "Today, Russian and Japanese businesses have already made their first steps and established joint ventures," he said. "But the investment potential is much higher. According to our modest estimates, it is close to $50 billion."
Relations between Russia and Japan have long been strained over four islands in the Pacific Ocean. Japan maintains their seizure by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II was illegal, and the dispute has kept the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty.
Androsov said Japan's accrued investment accounted for less than 2% of foreign investment in Russia and Russia's share in Japan's trade was at about the same level.
At the same time, Androsov said Japan's investment in oil and gas projects on the island of Sakhalin in Russia's Far East totaled $5 billion. Companies controlled by Mitsui and Mitsubishi hold 45% in the Sakhalin II energy project.
But Russia wants to discuss other areas of Russian-Japanese cooperation, in particular, machine-building and high technologies where Japan is a world leader, the deputy economics minister said.
Androsov said both economies were experiencing an upswing and had great investment potential.
"The Japanese economy is prepared to considerably increase its direct investment. Russia is prepared to receive large-scale investment," Androsov said.
Androsov said Japanese car makers Nissan and Toyota had already made decisions to invest considerable funds in the construction of plants in St. Petersburg.
Akira Matsu, a deputy minister of Japan for economy, trade and industry, said in turn that bilateral trade showed the signs expanding. Trade between the two countries totaled $4.2 billion in 2002, $8.8 billion in 2004 and $10 billion in 2005, he said.
Moreover, the number of Japanese companies displaying interest in Russia had more than doubled in the past three years, Matsu said.