By Cellia Shani
Andrei Belyaninov, chief of Russia’s Federal Customs Service, arrived in Israel recently for a seven-day working visit, at the head of an official delegation. The visit aimed at promoting cooperation between the two countries on tax and customs and is a reciprocal visit following that of Israeli Industry and Trade Minister, Shalom Simchon’s visit to Russia last October, and the understandings reached at the time with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich.
One proposal, made by Israel Tax Authority Director, Doron Arbeli to his Russian counterpart was to increase cooperation on information on bank accounts held by Israelis in Russian banks. Furthermore, the two departments signed a memorandum of understanding that includes the establishment of joint committees to examine all bilateral trade issues.
After the meetings, Arbeli stated that “he considers the visit an opportunity for direct cooperation between the respective tax authorities aimed at promoting and simplifying mutual trade and law enforcement using advanced electronic information transmission.”
The Deputy Director for Foreign Trade at the Israeli Trade Ministry, Udi Cohen said that “Russia is one of Israel’s most important trading partners, with Israeli exports to Russia exceeding the one billion dollar mark in 2012. The Foreign Trade Authority at the Israeli ministry has recognized the potential and is acting intensively to assist Israeli exporters to Russia by removing trade barriers between the countries. The Russian tax authority director’s visit to Israel and the seminar he held with Israeli company representatives are an important step in this direction; and we will take measures to rekindle negotiations on a free trade zone between the two countries, ” he said.
The Israeli Trade Attaché to Russia, Udi Steinbok, said that “changes in Russia’s customs policy, which began with the customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, along with the country’s joining the World Trade Organization pose serious challenges to Israeli companies.”
The Ministry of Trade’s Foreign Trade Authority reports the volume of trade between Israel and Russia in 2012 at about $2.4 billion. Israeli exports to Russia were about a billion – an 11% rise over 2011 – and Russian exports shrunk by about 20% to 1.4 billion.
Israeli exports to Russia comprise primarily communications, electronics and information technology; as well as food and agricultural technology, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, water technology and more. Imports include uncut diamonds, metals, petroleum and food products.