19:11 GMT +318 October 2018
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    Russia-Belarus trade up 22% to $15 bln in Jan.-Aug.

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    MINSK, October 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's prime minister said Friday trade with Belarus in January-August rose 22% year-on-year to $15 billion despite a recent natural gas dispute.

    The two former Soviet nations are trying to build a Union State to integrate their economies and political systems, but the process has stalled over a host of issues.

    "We have made a series of steps to consolidate the economic foundation on the basis of modern market realities," Viktor Zubkov told his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Sidorsky during his visit to Minsk for a Union State Council of Ministers meeting.

    He said Belarusian exports climbed 28.3% to $5.5 billion in the first eight months, and Russian exports gained 19.6% to exceed $10 billion. However, the Russian premier called on the two countries to eliminate the remaining restrictions on trade in order to move forward in forming a common economic space and a three-nation customs union with Kazakhstan.

    The leaders of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed a package of agreements on the legal basis for the customs union on October 6. The three countries are also members of Eurasec, a post-Soviet economic alliance that also includes Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

    Zubkov said trade between Russia and Belarus could be intensified by more efficient use of the Union State budget, which will be increased by at least 10% next year.

    "This will certainly help us finance all our common projects," he said.

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