ASIAN NATIONS TAKE LONG-TERM VIEW OF TIES WITH RUSSIA

ASIAN NATIONS TAKE LONG-TERM VIEW OF TIES WITH RUSSIA

This week's power struggle in Russia caught Asian nations at various stages of establishing commercial relations with sovereign Russia.

Little is likely to change in those relations unless there is long-term chaos, officials and business executives in these nations said.Perhaps more than any other, China has begun to enjoy Russia as an alternative market for its light industry exports, which have recently been hit by U.S. and EC barriers.

An official of the Trade Ministry in China said Russia will be the "new No. 1 export target."

Russian-Chinese trade hit US$5.6 billion last year, Chinese Trade Ministry statistics show. Customs figures put bilateral business in the first half of this year at US$3.6 billion, up 85 percent on the corresponding 1992 period.

Russia ranked sixth among China's trade partners in the half. It sold US$1.34 billion worth of goods to Russia, an increase of 81 percent, and bought US$2.34 billion in return, up 87 percent.

A settlement in their lengthy border dispute eased congestion at crossing points and paved the way for a flood of free-trade zones, joint ventures and bonded warehouses in formerly depressed northern China.

At the end of last year, Russia said 40,000 Chinese construction workers were laboring in Russia and an unspecified number of Russian scientists had been drawn to China.

JAPAN

Corporate Japan's decision that the former Soviet republics lack infrastructure, will not develop viable markets for years and are politically unstable has left Japanese companies with relatively little exposure in Russia.

The greatest interest has been in the Soviet Far East. According to the Japan External Trade Organization, Japan was the largest investor in Russian Far East coastal joint ventures at the end of 1992.

Japan's cumulative investment in the Far East coastal region and Khabarovsk was $83.1 million, exceeding that of the United States and China.

Japan's Export-Import Bank committed $100 million to Russia in December 1990 for humanitarian assistance; $2.5 billion in October 1991 for trade credits, trade insurance and humanitarian aid; $300 million in April 1993 for trade insurance for Kazakhstan; and a $60 million loan for Krygyzstan.

In April 1993, it also agreed to a $1.1 billion trade insurance loan and a $400 million Ex-Im Bank credit.

HONG KONG

Hong Kong's trade with Russia is tiny by Hong Kong standards, but commercial contacts have blossomed in the last few years.

Several private-sector trade missions have been exchanged and more are planned - if the political situation settles.

Hong Kong's exports to Russia in the first six months of this year totaled US$126 million, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council said. Of that, US$120 million was re-export goods, mainly from China.

Imports came to US$53 million, leaving a balance in Hong Kong's favor of US$73 million.

At a Moscow trade show last February, 28 local firms reported confirmed orders worth HK$50 million (US$6.4 million). That compared with HK$10 million secured by 22 companies a year earlier.

INDIA

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry believes the chaos in Russia will be temporary and may not have any long-term impact on trade between the two nations.

The Soviet Union had been one of India's largest trading partners, accounting for 15 percent to 20 percent of trade. Its breakup was a severe jolt to Indian exports.

Earlier this year, India and Russia reached agreement on the crucial issue of a ruble-rupee exchange rate, long an irritant in bilateral relations.

Indian companies have about 50 joint ventures in Russia, but sources here maintain most are in poor shape.

Russian diplomats were forecasting two-way trade this year at US$3 billion.