SOCHI, August 12 (RIA Novosti) – Members of the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are discussing the possibility of establishing a free-trade zone with Egypt, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.
"An important agreement was reached to establish cooperation between Egypt and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. We are now studying the possibility of creating a free-trade zone," Putin said after talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Sochi, a Russian Black Sea resort city.
"We have agreed to ease access for Egyptian products to our market," Putin said.
The Russian president said that agricultural products make up some 90 percent of Egypt’s exports to Russia.
"Egypt has already increased supplies of such products to our markets by 30 percent and is ready to increase it by another 30 percent in the near future," the Russian president said.
The two counties discussed creating free-trade zone between Egypt and the customs union in March, during a Joint Russian-Egyptian Commission on Trade and Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation meeting.
The United States, the European Union and their allies introduced several rounds of targeted sanctions against Russian companies and individuals after Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March, and followed up with sectoral sanctions targeting Russia’s defense, energy and banking sectors in July. In response, Russia started looking for alternative markets for its products, including in Asia and the Middle East.
Russia is also considering alternatives to the United States and Europe for food imports, after it unveiled a list of banned food and agriculture products from countries that imposed US-backed sanctions against the country last Thursday. The one-year ban targets beef, pork, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables, and nuts, as well as cheese and other dairy from the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway.
The Egyptian president arrived in Russia Tuesday, on his first official visit since he was elected in May 2014. In February, when he was still Egypt's defense minister, Sisi met with Putin in Moscow.