Vietnamese and Russian leaders have agreed to speed up negotiations and signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Vietnam and the customs alliance of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reached the consensus during their meeting in Moscow on July 26. The meeting took place right after a welcome ceremony for the Vietnamese leader.

Both leaders said that the FTA will open up great prospects for increasing economic, trade, investment and service cooperation between the two countries.

They planned to announce the start of negotiations on the FTA in September on the occasion of the APEC Summit in Vladivostok.

The two officials noted with satisfaction the positive development of Vietnam-Russia trade ties with the value expected to hit 3 billion USD in 2012.

However, the figure remains too modest compared to the two nations’ potential and demand, they said, adding that such an FTA is needed to increase two-way trade in the future.

President Sang and PM Medvedev shared the view that the strategic partnership between Vietnam and Russia has developed strongly and effectively over the past time.

Bilateral political relations have been further strengthened while cooperation in economics-trade, science-technology, security-defence, education-training, culture and tourism has been continuously expanded, they said.

The two sides spoke highly of strategic cooperation projects Vietnam and Russia are jointly implementing, especially those in oil and gas and nuclear power, including the Ninh Thuan 1 nuclear power plant.

PM Medvedev affirmed that Russia will continue to pay attention to energy cooperation projects with Vietnam and create favourable conditions for the two countries’ oil and gas joint ventures to carry out signed contracts and expand oil and gas exploration and exploitation in Russia .

President Sang also assured his host that Vietnam will create all favourable conditions for Russian oil and gas businesses to continue cooperation in oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the country’s continental shelf.

The two sides agreed to seek new areas of cooperation, while helping Vietnamese businesses to take part in development project in Russia’s Far Eastern region as well as Russian companies to do business in Vietnam.

The leaders were pleased with the results of bilateral cooperation in national defence and military technique, and added that Vietnam and Russia should continue to strengthen ties in education-training, science-technology, culture and tourism.

They also exchanged views on expanding relations between the Communist Party of Vietnam and the United Russia Party led by Medvedev, including the exchange of high-level visits.

President Sang thanked the Russian Government for creating favourable conditions for Vietnamese people residing legally in Russia and integrate well into the local communities.

On the same day, President Sang met with Vietnamese embassy staff and representative of the Vietnamese community in Russia .

Russia’s mass media, including ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti news agencies, "Russia State” TV Channel and “Channel One”, praised the effective cooperation between Vietnam and Russia over the past time.

They quoted PM Medvedev as saying that the visit of Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang is of special significance to bilateral ties.

Medvedev said the two countries’ cooperation in trade and humanitarian activities is very effective and Vietnam and Russia have established a regular dialogue mechanism in all issues.

On this occasion, the Kremlin press service issued a press release highlighting the all-faceted cooperation results between Russia and Vietnam, especially in education and tourism.

More than 52,000 Vietnamese have received under-graduate and graduate training in Russia, while nearly 6,000 others are currently studying in the country.

Meanwhile, the number of Russians travelling to Vietnam has increased significantly following Vietnam ’s move to exempt visa for Russian tourists staying within a 15-day period. A total of 780,000 Russian visited Vietnam in 2011, up 53 percent year-on-year and the figure for the first five months of this year reached 870,000.-VNA