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    KUDRIN: WITHIN 5 YEARS RUSSIA AND BULGARIA CAN DOUBLE THEIR BILATERAL TRADE

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    MOSCOW, February 2. (RIA Novosti correspondent) - The deputy prime minister and finance minister, Alexei Kudrin believes that Russia and Bulgaria can double their bilateral trade within five years.

    After his meeting with the Bulgarian deputy prime minister and economics minister, Lidiya Shuleva, Mr. Kudrin said that over the past few years trade between the two countries has grown because of Russia's exports and also because of imports from Bulgaria, which increased by 18% in 2003 alone.

    "If we keep moving forward at the same rate we will double our goods turnover within five years, and this is in full agreement with the principles of our relations that we worked out earlier," Mr. Kudrin stressed.

    According to him, "additional possibilities that can improve the trade regime between our countries" were also discussed during the meeting.

    Mr. Kudrin noted that, in particular, the prospects for improving the trade regime, linked with Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Bulgaria's entry into the European Union, were discussed. He said that the sides had also discussed simplifying the visa regime. According to Mr. Kudrin, he intends to exercise personal control over the procedure for facilitating the issue of visas to truck drivers.

    Mr. Kudrin added that following the meeting the Russian-Bulgarian working group had been instructed to work on improvement of the trade regime in view of the Russian Federation's new customs code, which came into force on January 1 and simplifies some procedures.

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