German Economy Minister Gabriel to visit Russia next week for trade talks

September 16, 2016 4:53 AM EDT

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel attends a cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos


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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Vice Chancellor and Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel will visit Russia next week to hold talks with Russian government officials about the state of bilateral trade relations, his ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Gabriel will be in Russia on Wednesday and Thursday and will take a business delegation with him, the ministry said. Russian officials were working to set up a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Gabriel, the Kremlin said.

Russia is likely to be keen to discuss the impact that European Union sanctions imposed on Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis are having and to ask what the prospects are for them being lifted.

Germany's Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy said Gabriel was making his visit at a time when trade between Russia and Germany was declining because of the state of the Russian economy, which is mired in a grinding crisis, and because of the weakness of the rouble and the knock-on effect that has had on consumer purchasing power.

Trade between German and Russian companies fell by 13.7 percent in the first half of 2016 compared to a year earlier, the ministry said, and German exports to Russia were also down.

"Planned among other meetings are talks with several members of the Russian government on bilateral economic relations between Russia and Germany and the European Union," the ministry said in its statement.

"In addition, a meeting with representatives of German companies that are located in the Russian Federation is planned."

Russian retaliatory counter sanctions banning many EU food products remain in place and Moscow has been keen to highlight the damage it says the row over Ukraine is causing European economies.

German companies have lobbied the German government in the past over the issue, complaining that the EU sanctions on Russia are hurting their business. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she wants Russia to do more to help the shaky peace process in eastern Ukraine before the EU considers lifting them.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley in Berlin and Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow; Editing by Andrew Osborn)



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