MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Lebanon is hoping to boost its trade with Russia threefold to some $1.5 billion within two to three years by increasing exports, Lebanese Minister of Economy and Trade Raed Khoury told Sputnik on Wednesday. "Now, the trade is around $500 million on Russia's side and Lebanon $10 or $20 million. It makes me happy if we go to eventually in 2-3 years to around $1.5 billion and Lebanon [exports] go to around $700 million for our products," Khoury said on the sidelines of a business summit hosted by the Russian-Lebanese Business Committee in Moscow. He explained that Beirut would like to boost its exports of agricultural products, such as olive oil and juices. "If we reach this figure and we will try to work to have this figure in front of us — we'll be very happy," the economy minister added.Russia's embargo on EU imports imposed in 2014 briefly increased trade relations between the two countries. However, the bilateral trade volumes have since been dropping, amounting to some $540 million last year, compared to $800 million in 2014, according to the Russian Federal Customs Service data. The minister explained the drop by the recent dip in energy prices, with oil and gas making up much of bilateral trade, as well as the political turmoil in Lebanon which left the country in paralysis with no president for two years. The impasse ended in late 2016 with Michel Aoun becoming the new president.
"The reason for [the drop in value of the total trade turnover] is two things. First, 70 percent of this amount comes from importation of fuel, gas and oil. The prices went down, as you know, so the value went down, although the amount has not gone down. So this is the first reason- because the price of oil went down. The second reason is because Lebanon's GDP has not been increasing lately because of the socio-political events," Khoury explained.