Russian and Israeli business leaders have agreed to cooperate actively in all matters concerning industry, mutual investment, trade and research and development, the Manufacturers Association of Israel said Monday.
The pact was signed Sunday in Tel Aviv by Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs President Alexander Shokhin, Manufacturers Association of Israel President Shraga Brosh, Israel Export Institute Director-General Yehiel Asia, and Israel-Russia Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lev Leviev.
Israeli protests following recent Russian overtures to Hamas and Iran cast no shadow over the contacts, which began gaining momentum in December, Brosh told The Jerusalem Post.
"Businessmen don't occupy themselves with politics," he said. "We believe that there is untapped economic potential in Russia, and expect that trade between the countries will double over the next five years to roughly $1.3 billion."
Brosh met with Shokhin and former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, currently president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, this past December in Moscow.
As Russia is Israel's major supplier of oil, there is "strategic importance to strengthening ties" with the country, Brosh said, calling on the Israeli business sector to continue seeing Russia as "an important destination country," because activity there would help boost exports.
According to the agreement, the two sides would share information on government programs to promote trade, R&D, and industrial cooperation; create joint forums for specific industrial sectors; and provide assistance in establishing trade representation offices.
In the past year, 100 Israeli companies initiated activity in Russia, bringing the total to roughly 900, the Manufacturers Association said. Non-diamond imports to Russia in 2005 grew 24% to $401.5 million, while non-diamond imports from Russia to Israel grew 22% to $261.6m.