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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday Russia backs gradual liberalizing of trade relations with the EU, noting that Russia and its Customs Union’s partners needed to increase the competitiveness of their goods first.
He was reacting to an article by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in the Russian business daily Kommersant.
“I have read in the article of Catherine Ashton that this goal is shared, though the year 2020 has not been mentioned. She has just written that with time we would be ready to establish a free trade area, and this is progress already, a step forward, I welcome this,” Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, Moscow welcomed “open and honest conversation” over the Eastern Partnership as well as energy dialogue with the EU, which he said was the cornerstone of Russia-EU strategic partnership.
Earlier in February, Lavrov said the Eastern Partnership program has become increasingly confrontational, coercing Ukraine into facing a choice between Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States on one side, and the EU on the other.
The volume of Russia’s goods exports to the European Union increased 3.5 times and grew from 64.5 billion euros in 2002 to 213.3 billion euros in 2012.