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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ministry Draws Up 'Buy Russian' Plan

After a decade of neglect, the government is finally rolling up its sleeves and taking a proactive approach to promoting local goods on international markets, officials said Tuesday.

"This is a sharp change," said Natalia Strigunova, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's deputy head of foreign representative offices. "The government has realized that it has to pay attention to trade fairs and exhibitions [to promote Russian industries]."

Unlike his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, President Vladimir Putin has been heavily touting local goods and products in bilateral talks with his foreign counterparts.

Some of his initiatives, like the proposed export of MiG-29 aircraft to Austria, have flopped, while others — like a goods-for-debt swap with Spain — have become official agreements.

These attempts are gradually shaping into a new policy line that has its foundation in a newly designed marketing doctrine.

In March, the Cabinet approved a draft document listing measures that need to be undertaken to promote domestic trade and exports of local goods to international markets.

Separately, it submitted a bid to host EXPO 2010, entering into competition with China and Korea.

Last April, a commission on trade fairs and exhibitions chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov was set up. This year, a concept was drafted, and by Sept. 1 the Economic Development and Trade Ministry is expected to draft a list of urgent measures needed to make some of the plans real.

This year, the ministry intends to participate in trade fairs in Germany, Switzerland, Libya, Syria, Poland, China and Cuba.

The list will change from year to year, government officials said.

As always, however, the main problem in the government's way is funding.

The annual budget for fair activities is a meager $500,000, which pales in comparison to the billions spent by governments that organize major trade fairs.

Last year, for example, Germany spent a total of 5.6 billion Deutsche marks ($2.4 billion) on EXPO 2000, according to media reports. So where the cash-strapped Russian government, which must service massive debts over the next decade, will find the money to compete with the likes of Germany is an open question.

But even if the source of funding is unclear, at least the understanding is there, officials said.

"We should focus on promotion of machinery exports," said Pyotr Shelishch, deputy head of the State Duma committee on industry, construction and high-tech.

"There is a huge potential for local machinery exports to developing countries," echoed Alexander Denisov, head of the National Agency on Industrial Marketing, a consulting group founded by several private experts in the field.

Over the last decade, machinery production dropped 67 percent, one of the steepest declines in the industrial sector, which lowered output roughly by half.