A top Russian government official on Wednesday said his nation wants to forge a bilateral investment agreement with the United States by the end of 2014.
First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told reporters that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman was a bit surprised when he introduced the idea for comprehensive trade talks at a meeting on Wednesday morning.
"We look forward to working with Shuvalov's team to address the outstanding issues, including those related to Russia's implementation of its WTO commitments, and to further realize the significant potential of the U.S.-Russia economic relationship," a USTR spokeswoman said in a statement to The Hill.
Shuvalov suggested that it would be better for the United States and Russia to divvy up the different issues starting with investment and running through regulations and standards.
"Maybe we won't call it free trade agreement negotiations, but maybe comprehensive approach and comprehensive trade agenda, which would mean that we could divide the whole agenda into different agreements," he said.
Shuvalov said that he and Froman might meet again in January at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland to further discuss the direction of any investment plan.
Eventually, Shuvalov said he hopes the talks can result in President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin shaking hands on an economic agreement.
While Russia doesn't have any intentions at this time of joining talks with the 12 nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), they are trying to ensure their economy doesn’t get left behind in a freer global trading system.
Shuvalov said any deal between the U.S. and the European Union — which is aimed at harmonizing regulatory frameworks on both sides of the Atlantic — could provide a roadmap for Russia.
Overall, he emphasized that whatever political tensions exist between the U.S. and Russia, it shouldn't interfere with growing their business ties.
Shuvalov said that while some multinational corporations such as Pepsi have established a foothold in Russia, it is "not as large of a scale as we need to have" and that improved trade relations should reach all sizes of businesses.
He said the meeting in Washington is part of a broader effort to ramp up the U.S.-Russia alliance, with outreach aimed at Froman and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
Tensions almost always seem to be high between the two nations but Russian officials are optimistic that they can forge stronger economic ties. Another Russian government official said the U.S. and Russia have an “immature” relationship that it is still evolving from the Cold War.
He said that the relationship is still guided by "a lot of stereotypes" and that he would like to see "more normalcy in our relationship."
A better trade relationship could give both countries "more stability" and that is "something we need to start working on," the official said.