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    RUSSIA REDUCES NUMBER OF TRADE MISSIONS ABROAD

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    MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is to reduce the number of its trade missions abroad by 60%, acting Economic Development Minister German Gref said at a meeting where foreign economic activities were discussed.

    According to him, the number of the missions will be reduced down to 29, and in 74 countries missions will be transformed into trade and economic departments of Russian embassies.

    Relevant documents have already been agreed upon with the Foreign Ministry and submitted to the Government, Mr. Gref said.

    "We decided to reduce the number of trade missions substantially, by more than 60%, and considerably to change their geography," he said.

    "We will concentrate the largest number of resources in the countries that are Russia's main trade partners and where we see a considerable potential for promoting trade and economic relations," Mr. Gref added. He pointed out also that this work would be "helpful for Russia's regions and in attracting investments."

    Gref called on the representatives of the executive power bodies in the regions to establish industrial districts, taking into account foreign business activities. He cited an example of the Lipetsk Region (in the south of Russia's European part), which "will become one of the largest household equipment producers in Europe by 2006." A joint Russian-Italian joint venture manufacturing refrigerators operates successfully there and a factory producing laundry washers will be put into operation in the near future.

    Earlier only Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod were known abroad. Today the Yaroslavl Region (250 km northeast of Moscow) is most investment attractive, because the risk of investment there is low, while the potential for investment is considerable.

    At the same time, according to the Economic Development Ministry, 55% of foreign investments are concentrated in the Central Federal District. The inflow of investments is restrained by the absence of clearly understandable concrete projects and the lack of transparency in Russian business. In this connection Mr. Gref stressed the need for going over to international standards of financial accounting as soon as possible.

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