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Russia, Germany Reach Agreements on Economic Issues


German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday backed a host of Russian investments in the car and shipbuilding sectors. The chancellor held talks with the Russian president Dmitri Medvedev in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Among the issues discussed were bids by Canada's Magna and Russia's Sberbank car companies to buy Opel, the German unit of bankrupt American automaker General Motors. Also discussed was Russian investment in Germany's fifth largest shipbuilder Wadan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to discuss agreements in various areas of industry including car manufacturing and ship building.

At talks in Sochi, the two leaders discussed the announcement made Thursday by Canada's Magna and Russia's Sberbank that general agreement had been reached with GM to buy its German unit Opel.

Chancellor Merkel said Friday that she spoke to President Medvedev about the deal and she said she made clear Germany has a preference for the Magna proposal which includes Russian participation.

Chancellor Merkel said the two leaders are working on finding common ground between General Motors, the Federal Government of Germany, Federal lands and the European partners.

Details of the deal have not yet been made public but Magna has said open questions in negotiations between GM and Magna management have been closed. Many in Berlin's establishment have been worried about 25,000 Opel jobs in Germany and have favored the Magna and Russian bid.

The Russians hope Opel's technology will get its car industry out of its deep slump. President Medvedev said the deal could help modernize Russia's economy.

Russia's economy, which boomed for a decade, has now been pushed into a deep recession and Russian companies are eager to find a foothold in European Union markets.

Germany, Europe's largest economy, is Russia's s biggest trading partner but bilateral trade has plummeted in the first five months of the year from a record annual turnover of $67.2 billion in 2008.

The German Chancellor and Russian President also discussed possible Russian investment in the struggling German shipbuilder Wadan. Chancellor Merkel said investment in Wadan could benefit Russia's economy.

There were no figures given as to how many jobs could be saved at the shipyard though a possible deal with the Russians comes just as Merkel faces a Sept. 27 election. The shipyard is a major employer in Merkel's constituency.

Germany is also Russia's key partner in the Nord Stream project, a pipeline that would deliver Russian gas under the Baltic Sea directly to Europe. Many of Germany's European Union neighbors have raised environmental questions about the project.

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