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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, Singapore Trade Gas for Brains

Technology powerhouse Singapore will share its know-how with Russia by providing training to officials on how to make better use of tax breaks and other incentives offered to technology and research firms.

Singapore, one of the four so-called Asian tigers, will consult and train local officials in Siberia's research and development zone in Tomsk and in Tatarstan's manufacturing zone in Yelabuga, Singapore's minister for trade and industry, Lim Hng Kiang, said Tuesday.

On a visit to Moscow, Lim also called for wider bilateral energy ties and invited Russia to supply liquefied natural gas to Singapore.

Singaporean officials toured all of Russia's six special economic zones, unveiled last year to boost investment in technology by offering tax breaks and other benefits, but chose to act as consultants for just two of them.

"We selected Tomsk and Tatarstan because of the strong characteristics of these regions," Lim said without naming any investment figures.

Tomsk, which has been focusing on electronics, nanotechnology, petrochemicals and other research since April, was chosen for its "strong scientific potential," Lim said. Tatarstan's Yelabuga, where businesses are expected to invest more than 13 billion rubles ($485 million) in car parts, electronics and plastics manufacturing by 2010, was chosen because of the regional government's "efficiency and enthusiasm."

"We view Singapore as a strategic partner and a platform for entering Asian markets," Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said after signing the zones agreement.

Lim said the energy needs of Southeast Asia were growing, which could provide new opportunities for bilateral trade between Russia and Singapore, specifically concerning LNG. Petroleum products currently account for the bulk of Russia's exports to the Asian country.

"We see Singapore as a base for Russian oil and gas companies to operate out of to the rest of Southeast Asia," he said. Singapore plans to finish construction of an LNG terminal by 2012 to diversify its energy sources, Lim said.

LNG cooperation "looks logical," Gref said, given that upcoming LNG projects in Sakhalin and Shtokman provide convenient transportation routes to Singapore.

The Sakhalin Energy group, the developers of the Shell-led Sakhalin-2 project, said it could begin discussing contracts with Singapore if production capacity was increased. Most of its LNG supplies are committed to Japan, South Korea, Mexico and the United States, according to the group's spokesman, Ivan Chernyakhovsky. The first gas shipments are expected in 2008, he said.

Shtokman, the largest LNG project in Russia, aims to develop the natural gas deposits located under the Barents Sea. Production was expected to start in 2010 but is likely to be delayed because the project's leader, Gazprom, has yet to choose its partners.

Russia-Singapore trade volume reached $628 million last year, up 17 percent from 2004. Russian exports, primarily oil products (66 percent) and metals (21 percent), totaled $310 million in 2005. Imports, mostly electronics, reached $318 million last year, according to the Economic Development and Trade Ministry.