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Russian President Vladimir Putin met with leading Dutch businessmenon the first day of his maiden state visit to the Netherlands
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the heads of Phillips, Shell, Unilever, and the ABN AMRO and ING banks in the Dutch capital Tuesday at the mayor's official residence on the first day of his maiden state visit to the Netherlands. Bilateral trade was the key issue on the agenda. Putin said bilateral trade was expected to reach about $25 billion by the end of 2005. He said bilateral trade totaled $16.5 billion in 2004, whereas this year it had already reached $15 billion. "Trade has grown at a record high rate every year," Putin said. "Dutch capital investment in the Russian economy in the last five years has increased 20-fold... This is an absolute record." Direct investment accounts for more than two-thirds of the figure, he added. Putin admitted that money had predominantly been invested in Russia's fuel and energy sector, but added that Dutch business had become increasingly interested in other sectors as well and maintained cooperation with Russian regions. Putin also said he gladly welcomed Dutch business in Russia, noting its significant contribution to the development of bilateral relations. "I hope our meeting will heighten your interest in the Russian economy," he said. "It is a well-known fact that Dutch merchants held leading positions in Russia's foreign trade since the 12th century." He said Russia intended to build a transparent market secured by legal guarantees that would be open to international cooperation and foreign investment. Speaking about the economic situation in Russia, Putin said the country's gross domestic product was expected to grow by an annual 6% in 2005. The Central Bank's gold and foreign currency reserves considerably exceed the state foreign debt and total more than $150 billion, he added. He reminded Dutch businessmen that Russia had repaid the rest of its debt to the International Monetary Fund ahead of schedule in January and a part of its debt to the Paris Club of Creditor Nations in July-August.
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