ORGANIZERS of this year’s Philippine Russian Business Forum and Exhibition hope to improve the balance of trade between the two countries by encouraging local companies to export higher-value products to Russia.

“We are very conscious of the balance of trade. We import more than we export,” said Armi Lopez Garcia, honorary consul of the Russian Federation, during yesterday’s media launch of the event at the Cebu City Waterfront Hotel and Casino yesterday.

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Russia is the country’s largest trading partner in Eastern Europe. It is the country’s 23rd trading partner at a global scale with a total trade value of $389.736 million.

The country’s export to Russia increased by 15.21 percent reaching $39.086 million last year from $33.93 million recorded a year ago.

The balance of trade, however, is heavily in favor of Russia as the country’s total imports increased by 90.09 percent from $131.67 million to $250.3 million.

The country’s top exports to Russia are semiconductors and electronic products, transport equipment, garments, copper products, petroleum products, coconut oil and fruits. Its top imports are steel rods and bars.

“This situation poses a challenge for us to encourage the export of higher-value Philippine products to Russia to balance the trade between the two countries,” Garcia said.

Garcia said electronics, information and communications technology services, construction materials, food and beverages, automotive parts, sports footwear and travel bags, gold and silver jewelry, and twine and cordage products are some of the product exporters can promote to Russia.

“Russia is considered a largely untapped market for the Philippines,” she said.

Garcia cited in particular the potential of Cebuano export products such as fashion accessories, furniture and gift, toys and accessories, which are slowly gaining popularity among Russians through the recent trade fairs and exhibits there.

“Our products are all welcome. In fact, the Russian market loves the inclusion of pearls and natural materials into the products. There is room for us in the Russian market,” Garcia said.

The 2nd Philippine Russian Business Forum and Exhibition is organized by the Philippine Russian Business Assembly (PRBA), Embassy of the Russian Federation and the Philippine Exhibits and Themeparks Corp. (Petco) to promote tourism, trade, investment and greater economic and socio-cultural exchanges between the two countries.

The event is held in cooperation with the Cebu Province, Department of Tourism, Mandaue City and the different local business chambers.

Dr. Alberto Fenix, PRBA vice chairperson for investments, said the event will have simultaneous roundtable discussions on mining and energy, education and culture, tourism and wellness, labor and placement services, real estate and retirement facilities and trade promotion and developments.

Garcia said the event, which will run from Oct. 21 to 24 at the Cebu International Conventional Center, is expected to attract more local and international participants.

Last year’s business forum was joined by about 170 local and 30 Russian delegates. Its key achievement was the signing of the Air Service Agreement between Philippines and Russia.