HARBIN, June 19 (Xinhua) -- As China is adding investment to revive the "rust belt" in its northeastern provinces, Russia is also looking to boost the economy in its Far East, which brings tremendous opportunities for the two geographically adjacent regions, experts and government officials said at a high-level forum at the 4th China-Russia Expo which closed Monday.
Andrey Ostrovsky, deputy director of Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the Russian Far East covers 36 percent of the country's territory, but has less than 5 percent of its population. It is rich in natural resources but poor in infrastructure, similar to China's northeastern region.
"Strengthened cross-border cooperation has become a feasible alternative to help promote regional development on both sides," said Ostrovsky, who is also vice chairman of Russia-China Friendship Association.
He said the development of Siberia and the Far East is one of the most complicated tasks for the Russian government, and integrating these areas into the Silk Road Economic Belt building is an important way for them to share the benefits of cooperation and development with Asia-Pacific countries.
Over the past years, the development of the Far East has increasingly become a national strategy and top agenda for the Russian government, which has established a ministry to take charge of it.
Alexander Galushka, minister for the Development of the Russian Far East, said Russia and China have shared interests in the development of the region. The cooperation between the two countries in developing it largely contributes to the pairing of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.
"The Russian Far East is adjacent to China's northeastern provinces, but has limited land transportation infrastructure. More overland cross-border infrastructure is required to make full use of the geographic advantages in commerce and trade between the two areas," the minister said.
The two countries have made progress in infrastructure cooperation. Currently, they are building the Nizhneleninskoye-Tongjiang railway bridge and Blagoveshchensk-Heihe road bridge, which will provide China with convenient access to seaports and the Russian Far East with an additional cargo base. Galushka said a "China commercial service center" is planned to assist Chinese merchants doing business in the area.
According to the minister, about 20 joint commercial projects are being implemented in the Russian Far East, involving agriculture, petrochemical engineering, raw materials, logistics and tourism, and another four are under discussion. The total investment of those projects are estimated at about 6 billion U.S. dollars.
"There is huge potential for commercial cooperation between China and Russia in the Far East. If fully tapped, the aggregated investment is expected to top 60 billion dollars," the minister said.
Vladimir Miklushevskiy, governor of Russia's Primorsky Territory, said the territory has the longest stretch of Russia's land border with China, which is a competitive advantage in further building business ties with the neighboring country.
The governor said another 300 billion Russian rubles will be invested to upgrade the international transport corridors "Primorye-1" and "Primorye-2" connecting the Chinese provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin with Primorsky.
"The expanded corridors will further boost investment in the near future and the upgrade is worthwhile," he said.
Sergey Paltov, consul general of Russian Consulate-General in the city of Shenyang, said Russia has noticed the increasing enthusiasm of Chinese investors toward the development of the Russian Far East area.
Customs clearance will be streamlined starting from August, along with more convenient visa on arrival and e-visa measures, to facilitate Chinese investors entering Vladivostok and other parts of the Russian Far East for economic, tourism and cultural cooperation, the consul general said.