The joint Polish-Russian commission on trade and economic cooperation began its fifth meeting in Warsaw on Thursday. A Russian delegation led by Russia's Transport Minister Sergei Frank, the commission's co-chairman, arrived in the Polish capital on Thursday to attend its work. Co-chairman on the Polish side is Vice-Premier and Economics Minister Janusz Steinhoff. During its two days of deliberations, the commission will examine the present state and future prospects of economic ties between the two countries. Attention will be focused on cooperation in power engineering, agriculture, joint investments and regional coordination. The day before, Steinhoff said that the Polish side was particularly concerned over Poland's growing deficit in its trade with Russia. Last year it exceeded 3.7 billion US dollars on total turnover of 4.6 billion dollars. This trend has continued into this year, he said. In the first quarter of 2001, Russian exports to Poland rose by 20 percent, while Poland's only by 2 percent. Steinhoff said that during the negotiations, Poland would come up with some initiatives to achieve a more balanced exchange of goods. Specialists in Warsaw point out that strong growth in Russia's trade surplus is due above all to surging energy prices, with energy accounting for 80 percent of Russian supplies to Poland. On the other hand, Warsaw can barely afford to increase its exports. The situation worsened at the end of last year when the exchange rate of the Polish currency--the zloty--increased by more than 10 percent against basic currencies, making Polish goods still less competitive on the Russian market.
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