Russia is keen on expanding trade and joint ventures with Thai companies in the automotive and aviation parts sector, says Thailand's industry minister.
Chakramon Phasukavanich said Thailand already had close trade ties with Russia but the quickest way to tighten them would be to create more joint ventures as they do not need time and huge capital.
"Russian companies are looking at Thailand as a hub for the Asean Economic Community and Thailand also presents itself as a good place for Russian investors to produce and add more value to their products," Mr Chakramon said.
He said the Russian currency crisis was unlikely to have a big impact on bilateral trade as trade values were still minimal and the crisis was seen as a short-lived phenomenon. However, cooperation and joint ventures would last longer and provide greater trade opportunities.
Between January and October last year, trade value between Thailand and Russia stood at US$3.3 billion, up 14%, according to Russia's Minister of Industry and Trade Danis Manturov.
"We are looking forward to increasing the figure through joint ventures and we are encouraging Thai investors to invest more in Russia," he said.
He said sunrise sectors including agriculture and automotive components offered good opportunities for Thai expertise.
"Russia is also seeking Thai partners in pharmaceutical and medical equipment sectors as well as in other kinds of industry to do business together," said Mr Manturov.
Mr Chakramon admitted the countries had discussed the asbestos issue after environmental groups had asked the Thai government to ban imports of the ore, which mostly comes from Russia.
From January to November last year, Thailand imported asbestos worth 621 million baht from Brazil, China and Russia. However, more than 80% worth 525 million baht came from Russia.
The cabinet on Dec 23 rejected a Public Health Ministry proposal to outlaw asbestos, citing lack of evidence of asbestos-related disease in Thailand. It also invalidated the Industry Ministry's proposal to phase out asbestos in products by 2020.
"If the use of asbestos is banned by law, it would be retroactively applied and the burden to replace all products that contain asbestos would fall on the government. This would require a lot of money," said Mr Chakramon.