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France plans to play an active role in major Russian projects
France plans to play an active role in major Russian projects in transport, aircraft building, electricity and construction, the country's foreign trade minister said on Tuesday.

Herve Novelli met with Russian deputy economics minister Stanislav Kuznetsov earlier in the day, and expressed France's readiness to boost economic ties, protect intellectual property rights, fight counterfeiting and reduce bureaucracy.

"The problem is that the balance of trade between France and Russia is in deficit, even though Russia is seeing such strong economic growth," Herver Novelli told a news conference in Moscow.

On specific bilateral cooperation projects, Novelli noted the construction of a highway linking Moscow and St Petersburg involving France's Bouygues Construction.

Among other joint projects, Novelli said Russia and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) were building an Airbus A320 aircraft, and noted partnership between Alstom, a global leader in equipment and services for power generation and rail transport, and Atomenergomash. He also cited joint projects of Electricite de France and Russia's INTER RAO UES, the import and export operator of Russian electricity monopoly UES.

The official said French companies were ready to join the construction of Olympic facilities in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

According to official Russian estimates, trade between Russia and France hit $13.4 billion last year, and reached $6.8 billion in the first half of 2007, up 14% year-on-year. However, Russian exports to France have dropped 5% this year, with French imports increasing 46%.

In 2006 France invested $3 billion in Russia, including $350 million in direct investment, and French investment reached $3.5 billion in the first six months of this year.

Novelli said: "French companies actually account for 4% of the Russian market, and France is Russia's eight largest supplier of goods and services," adding that the situation can be improved.

The French official said a large delegation of French businessmen would attend the international economic forum in St Petersburg next June.

He also pledged full support to Russian businessmen from the French government, and said transparent Russian investment was welcome in France's power sector.

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