Russian economic official presses for improved US ties

A top Russian economic official said his country is ramping up efforts to boost trade and investment opportunities for U.S. businesses.

Alexey Ulyukaev, the Russian minister of economic development, said his country and the United States are somewhere between “good and not good” on trade and investment issues so “there is a lot of room for development.”

“Together can create better possibilities for sustainable growth,” he said Monday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Ulyukaev will meet Wednesday with Commerce Secretary Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerTrump transportation chief to join Biden for jobs event DeVos should ‘persist’ despite liberal opposition Indiana teachers hold sit-in to demand Young recuse himself from DeVos vote MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanUS will investigate aluminum imports as national security hazard Overnight Finance: WH floats Mexican import tax | Exporters move to back GOP tax proposal | Dems rip Trump adviser's Goldman Sachs payout Froman heads to Council on Foreign Relations MORE to discuss a “new agenda” to steer the two nations toward a stronger economic relationship "with the aim of rectifying problems facing U.S. businesses in Russia."

He said he hopes those meetings are the start of several important agreements on investment, trade and better conditions for services such as insurance and banking from the United States. 

In December, another top Russian government official announced that Moscow wants to forge a bilateral investment agreement with the United States by the end of 2014.

As part of that plan, Russia is aiming to hammer out up to five bilateral agreements that would boost trade between the nations and establish a burgeoning free-trade zone.

While Ulyukaev said the components wouldn't techncally represent a free trade agreement, they would streamline regulations, offer better intellectual property protections and lower other hurdles to entry into the massive Russian market for U.S. and other interested nations. 

Russia is trying to boost its growth, which Ulyukaev conceded is weak right now, by reaching out to global trading partners.

Moscow joined the World Trade Organization in August 2012, human rights provisions tacked on by Congress chilled the U.S.-Russia relationship. 

At home, the Russian government is launching new steps this year with Russian businesses to generate fresh ideas on how to make the nation’s environment friendlier for Russians, too, from tax administration, customs dutoes, registration of businesses, and access to land, transportation and energy, Ulyukaev said. 

He said changes to the Russian economy could come through legislation and in other ways.

Still, he argued that Russia will have to focus more heartily on balancing its hefty oil and gas export business with other goods and services.