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Talks ease issues from market raid

CHINA and Russia have agreed that the sudden closure of a Moscow market used by many Chinese merchants should not hurt their economic ties, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng said yesterday.

"The Chinese side has reached broad consensus with the Russian side on the proper handling of the sudden shutdown of the Cherkizovsky Market," Gao said.

Gao heads a Chinese delegation to Moscow for talks on the impact of the June 29 closing of the market used by tens of thousands of Chinese merchants.

About 150 Chinese merchants and a large quantity of their goods were seized in a crackdown on smuggling at the market, Moscow's biggest wholesale outlet.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had said the market was a major focus of smuggling and contraband goods and put a figure of US$2 billion on the value of goods at the facility.

No date has been set as to when the market, which mostly offered cheap clothes, will reopen.

Gao said the two countries agreed to handle the closure through friendly negotiations and will develop a work plan to stop illegal activities, including "grey customs clearance."

He said the Moscow city government had started to help merchants transfer goods out of the market.

The city, Gao said, also will provide Chinese merchants with the necessary assistance and legal aid concerning the placement of their goods and the establishment of a standardized market.

Moscow's commercial and marketing bureau was scheduled to meet today with representatives from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Russia and Chinese merchants to discuss the situation.

China and Russia value their strategic partnership and agreed that the market closure would not affect bilateral cooperation, Gao said.

Gao, who arrived in Moscow on Wednesday, was accompanied by a delegation of officials from the ministries of commerce and foreign affairs, the General Administration of Customs, and trade officials from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.

The delegation has met with representatives of the Chinese merchants and Russian officials from relevant ministries and departments during their trip.


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