Finland, Russia tackle trade and traffic
as one million trucks a year cross border

The Associated Press

The prime ministers of Russia and Finland on Tuesday hailed growing trade and discussed efforts to ease one of its annoying byproducts — traffic jams at their border.

Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov and Finnish counterpart Matti Vanhanen discussed cooperation in energy, forestry and the high-tech sector. Vanhanen expressed concern about rising Russian export duties on raw timber, a measure aimed to increase processing internally.

Zubkov said he and Vanhanen also discussed ways to improve operations at crossing points on the countries' 1,300-kilometer border, where long lines of trucks are regularly backed up.

Vanhanen said the problem was a result of increasing trade, RIA-Novosti reported. He said the number of trucks crossing the border every year was approaching 1 million. Zubkov said the volume of bilateral trade had more than tripled since 2000 and was expected to reach about 15 billion euros ($22 billion) this year, Itar-Tass reported.

Vanhanen said increasing Russian timber export duties were "a painful issue" for Finland, Itar-Tass reported, and Interfax quoted him as saying he hoped for a compromise. Russia hiked export duties on raw timber in July as part of a phased increase, under which the duty in some cases will reach 80 percent of the value of the goods exported, Interfax reported. Finland's wood-processing mills account for more than 15 percent of its gross domestic product and rely on Russia for about one-fifth of their timber, Interfax reported.