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Putin seeks energy, car deals on visit to Paris

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-29

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right) is in Paris with a host of Russian business leaders to discuss greater French involvement in Russian auto industry and energy projects with his French counterpart François Fillon (at left).

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived in France on Thursday for a two-day visit aimed at securing French investment into Russia’s auto and energy industries.

Eléctricité de France (EDF) sealed a deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom, signing onto plans for the South Stream pipeline, a joint venture between Gazprom – which holds a monopoly on exports of Russian gas – and Italy’s ENI that would bring Russian gas to Europe under the Black Sea. The pipeline’s pathway bypasses Ukraine in the hope of making European energy deliveries secure after a row between Moscow and Kiev over payments last January shut off gas supplies to Europe for more than six weeks.

France’s Total has already invested in Russian energy as a partner in one of the world’s largest gas developments, the $15 billion Shtokman gas field.

French direct investment in Russia now totals $10 billion while bilateral trade jumped by 35 percent in 2008 to be worth an estimated $22 billion. Economic cooperation has flourished under French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who – despite being abroad on state business during Putin’s visit – has adopted a more amenable attitude toward Russia than his predecessors.

Renault to the rescue

France’s Renault signed a rescue deal on Friday for the maker of Lada cars, Russia’s ailing AvtoVAZ, which hopes to avoid massive layoffs with a cash injection. Renault already holds a 25 percent interest in the automaker and some reports say the talks at Rambouillet outside Paris included discussions of a share swap that would increase this stake.

But Putin’s trip has also set off alarm bells in some parts of Europe amid reports that Moscow also has plans to purchase a French-made warship that would significantly boost Russia’s military capabilities. Russian and French officials have in the past confirmed that the two nations are negotiating the purchase of a Mistral warship and a licence to produce at least four others in an unprecedented transfer of military technology from a NATO power.

“It's being discussed in general,” one member of the Russian delegation said of the Mistral purchase, while noting that the warship was not the main item on the agenda. “We're at the state of gathering information.”


Date created : 2009-11-27


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