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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russo-German Trade Link Feted

Mayor Yury Luzhkov joined members of the German business community Monday at a ceremony marking the construction of an architectural centerpiece to growing German-Russian trade relations.

The event comes two weeks after German Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited Moscow to reaffirm Bonn's commitment to President Boris Yeltsin. It was an unusually public occasion for a foreign business community that, despite billions of dollars in trade and investment, has traditionally kept a low profile in Russia.

"This is a very visible step toward greater cooperation," Luzhkov said to an audience of 200 assembled outside the newly completed shell of a four-story building near Bolshaya Polyanka. "I think we can consider ourselves friends."

The new building, due to be completed by August, will house offices of the Berlin Bank as well as the Association of German Firms, a German governmental organization that represents 200 German businesses operating in Moscow and which has affiliate offices in St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk.

Jans Peter Stihl, president of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce -- which represents more than 3 million German firms worldwide -- said the German business community in Russia was quiet because most of its representatives were not from large multinationals, as with many American companies operating here.

"I think our low profile has had to do with the size of German companies working here," Stihl said. "They are smaller firms and are not traditionally interested in big publicity."

Germany is Russia's leading trading partner and the second leading foreign investor in Russia. In 1994, total trade between the two countries equalled 24 billion Deutsche marks ($16 billion), amounting to 11 percent of Russia's total foreign trade.

German direct investment in Russia in 1994 was 147 million marks, while at the beginning of 1996 Russia's debt to Germany totaled 62 billion marks, according to figures published by the Association of German Firms, "Strong German-Russian relations depend on the strength of our economic relations," said Christopher Von Hammerstein-Loxten, director of the Berlin Bank, adding that the building ceremony was timed in relation to Kohl's recent visit.

The ceremony was held to coincide with the opening Tuesday of the art exhibition "Moscow-Berlin" at the Pushkin Museum and part of greater cooperation between Moscow and Berlin.