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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

'1.8% of World Trade'

MOSCOW (MT) -- Foreign trade volumes increased by 25 percent last year to reach $210 billion, which is 1.8 percent of global trade, up from 1.65 percent in 2002, news agencies quoted Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref as saying Tuesday.

Gref criticized, however, the distribution of the benefits of foreign trade within Russia, saying it was "lopsided," with 27 of the country's 89 regions accounting for three-quarters of all foreign trade, Itar-Tass reported. He said a "basic task" is to attract investors to less developed regions with good potential.

Gref also said that Russia plans to close more than half of its full-fledged trade missions abroad, leaving such missions in 29 nations, in order to focus on key trade partners and countries where it is possible to expand trade.

Alekperov to Iraq

KALININGRAD (Reuters) -- The head of oil major LUKoil said on Tuesday he would visit Iraq next week, where the U.S-led invasion has left a question mark over the firm's stake in a huge oil field.

LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov told reporters: "Next week I hope to be in Baghdad." He did not elaborate.

Under a deal with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein said to be worth $3.7 billion, LUKoil owned 68.5 percent of a consortium with rights to the massive West Qurna field.

Iraq tore up the contract early last year before the U.S.-led invasion in March to topple Hussein, saying the Russian firm had not fulfilled its obligation to begin work on the field. LUKoil said its hands were tied by UN sanctions in force at the time.

LUKoil considers the contract still to be valid, but the new U.S.-sponsored Iraqi leadership has not yet decided whether or not to recognize the deal.

Russian firms signed around $4 billion worth of contracts with Hussein's government.

TNK-BP Pipeline Pitch

MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- TNK-BP on Tuesday urged the government to quicken plans to build oil pipelines in the Arctic and the Far East, allowing producers who are ramping up production to sell more crude to the U.S. and Asia.

About 200 million tons of oil pumped every year (4 million barrels per day) will be stuck inside former Soviet states by 2010 if no new pipelines are built, said Jonathan Kollek, TNK-BP's vice president for sales, at an oil conference in Moscow.

Russian oil producers, which ship most of their oil to Europe across the Black and Baltic seas, face bottlenecks in the country's pipelines and in straits leading out of those seas to European ports. The resulting glut of oil keeps domestic crude prices at 50 percent or less of the international level.

"Oilmen are now taking every imaginable solution, including shipping crude in rail cars on ferries before loading it to tankers," Kollek said. "The focus should be on large capital projects such as the pipeline and terminal in Murmansk or the Far East route."

Jakarta Chopper Deal

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has ordered defense officials to press ahead with the purchase of Russian helicopters amid allegations that money for the aircraft has gone missing.

"The president emphasized that the [problems surrounding] the purchase of the helicopters must be resolved," military chief General Endriartono Sutarto told reporters after meeting Megawati Tuesday. "It cannot be canceled."

Last week, parliament ordered a probe into the $21.6 million deal after Russia said it had delayed the February delivery of four MI-17 helicopters because it had not received the initial payment of $2.6 million.

Sutarto said the defense ministry had paid the money to a Singapore-based lending company that was supposed to hand it over to the Russian company supplying the choppers. "The problem is with the lender company. We provided the down payment, it is up to the company to fulfill its payment," Sutarto said.

Magnesium War

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- The only remaining magnesium producer in the United States, closely held U.S. Magnesium, and two unions have filed a trade complaint against $66 million in annual imports of the metal from China and Russia.

The company told the U.S. International Trade Commission that low-cost imports from those countries have surged and threaten their business. China has been able to circumvent two previous efforts to curb shipments.

Magnesium is used by companies such as Alcoa, the world's largest aluminum maker, to strengthen aluminum products such as cans. Alcoa is now "going to take a close, hard look" at the petition, spokesman Jake Siewert said.

Magnesium imports from Russia and China increased 25 percent in 2003 from the year before, according to the petition, which was filed late Friday.

The filing begins a four-step process by the International Trade Commission and U.S. Commerce Department that will determine if tariffs on imports from China are justified and, if so, how high they should be.