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Russia calls for more investment by Swiss companies

Pascal Couchepin (right) gestures during talks in Moscow with the Russian minister of economic development, German Gref

(Keystone)

Russia is keen to attract more investment from Switzerland, the country's economics minister, German Gref, made clear during talks in Moscow with his Swiss counterpart, Pascal Couchepin.

Couchepin is leading a delegation of industry leaders to Russia to assess whether reforms initiated by President Vladimir Putin have made the country a safer place to do business.

"We want Swiss investors to feel at home here," Gref said after his meeting with Couchepin.

Russia and Switzerland on Friday signed an agreement worth SFr4.9 million to assist in the completion of a real estate register to be located near Moscow.

Switzerland is the eighth largest overseas investor in the world, and trade deals with Russia have risen markedly over the past year, but Swiss companies are still far less likely than their overseas competitors to invest directly in the country.

Apart from companies such as Nestlé and ABB, few Swiss firms have risked launching in such a volatile market, especially because of legal loopholes in the protection of company patents.

"Investors are like deer," said Couchepin during his visit to Russia. "They are timid animals, and are likely to be scared off for a long time."

"You need a lot of patience to make them come back," he added.

Swiss exports to Russia reached SFr555 million ($323 million) last year, an increase of 56 per cent over 1999. Imports from Russia over the same period more than doubled in value, reaching SFr3.67 billion.

More than 90 per cent of that trade deficit is accounted for by Swiss imports of palladium, a precious metal used in the making of catalytic converters.

swissinfo with agencies


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