Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will discuss trade relations during weekend talks in Moscow, the Kremlin said Wednesday.
Trade between the two countries amounted to 34 billion marks (17.4 billion euros) last year, a sharp increase on the corresponding figure of 28 billion marks (14.32 billion euros) in 1999, according to official Russian figures cited by the RIA Novosti news agency.
Putin and Schroeder are expected to discuss Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), which Germany is supporting.
The talks could also touch on a German initiative, which Putin has described as "extremely positive," to convert Moscow's outstanding Soviet-era debt into shares in Russian companies.
On January 1, Russia's debt to members of the so-called Paris Club of international creditors stood at 48.3 billion dollars, of which 21.1 billion dollars is owed to Germany, its principal creditor.
The bilateral talks will take place during a two-day private visit to Moscow by Schroeder, who was invited by Putin to spend Orthodox Christmas in Russia during the Kremlin chief's visit to Berlin last June.
Schroeder last visited Moscow in September in a bid to persuade Putin to back reformist challenger (now Yugoslav President) Vojislav Kostunica in the wake of disputed elections called by former Belgrade strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Putin and Schroeder have struck up a workmanlike relationship since Putin, a former KGB agent in Soviet-era East Germany, assumed power in Russia a year ago -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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