Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang province, where sharing a 2,981-km-long border with Russia. Lu Hao, governor of the province, stressed that Heilongjiang should take advantage of Harbin’s Russia-friendly environment and its ability to further boost ties with the country.
“We need to utilize Harbin’s historic cultural connections with Russia to develop the city as an exchange hub with Russia,”said Lu.
A plan to implement the policy of economic and trade cooperation with Russia was issued in December 2012 by Harbin’s city government. According to the plan, the city set a goal of an annual 25 percent increase in trade and investment with Russia.
In 2013, Harbin’s imports and exports to Russia reached$230 million, up 50 percent from 2012, and Russia has become Harbin’s biggest export market, according to the Harbin Business Bureau.
The city is preparing to set up a tariff-free zone to further boost trade with Russia. “The application has been submitted to the central government and we are trying our best to launch the zone at the end of this year,” said Song Xibin, mayor of Harbin.
Placing high hopes on an approval of the tariff-free zone, the city is close to inking deals expected to bring projects to the zone, according to Song.
To facilitate trade between Heilongjiang and Russia, Harbin has launched 11 flights from the city to Russia and launched cargo flights to Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk.
Boosting trade in durable goods is not the ultimate goal of Harbin,according to Song. “We are also planning to build a financial settlement center in Harbin,” he said.
Harbin Bank established a Russian rouble cash trade center in 2010,then the first such market in China.
The bank set up branches near the border to provide financial services to Russian customers and signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Savings Bank of the Russian Federation in February.
As economic ties between Heilongjiang and Russia are getting stronger, the annual China Harbin International Economic and Trade Fair will be renamed “China-Russia Economic and Trade Expo” this year, Song said.