(Adds comments, background)
MOSCOW, June 3 Russia and China have reached an
agreement to create a joint credit rating agency and are working
on a series of measures to make trade easier, Russia's finance
minister said on Tuesday, a sign of growing ties between the
Speaking during a trip to China, Anton Siluanov told
journalists that the new rating agency would be modelled on
existing rating agencies.
"We would like (the agency's) ratings to be apolitical,"
Siluanov said in comments sent by the ministry's press service.
The plan to create an agency in conjunction with China comes
at time when Russia has shown signs of dissatisfaction with the
three western agencies - Standard & Poor's Moody's
and Fitch that dominate the ratings market.
S&P cut Russia's sovereign rating to a notch above junk in
late April, weeks after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea
Russian officials criticised what they regarded as a
"politically motivated" downgrade - a claim that S&P denied.
Russia's desire for an alternative has led to discussion
about creating a national rating agency, but some analysts have
questioned whether such a body would have credibility.
The plan to create a new agency in conjunction with China
appears aimed at gradually building a credible alternative to
the big three ratings agencies, which came under fire for
failing to anticipate the financial crisis that began in 2007.
Beijing-based rating firm Dagong said last year it hoped to
cash in on that criticism and take 5-10 percent of the European
ratings market by 2017.
"In its first phase, the agency will evaluate
Russian-Chinese investment projects with the goal to attract a
series of Asian countries, and gradually, based on progress and
reputation, we believe that it could reach a level when its
opinions will attract other countries," Siluanov said.
No details were given on when the agency would begin work.
After being shunned by the West for its involvement in the
Ukrainian crisis, Russia has moved swiftly to improve business
relations with China and other countries from the BRICS block
that also includes India, Brazil and South Africa.
Late last month, Russia's state-run Gazprom signed
a landmark 30-year deal, worth more than $400 billion, to supply
gas to China.
While most Western countries condemned President Vladimir
Putin for using Ukraine's vulnerable political situation and
taking away the Crimean Black Sea peninsula, BRICS countries
have broadly refrained from criticism.
Without providing details, Siluanov also said that his talks
with Chinese officials included the possibility of preferential
taxes for Chinese companies investing in Russia, currency swaps
and trade settlement in national currencies.
Answering a question about possible joint management of gold
and foreign currency reserves with China, Siluanov said "the
issue of lending and monetary policy" will be a part of his
talks with China's central bank officials.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Jason Bush and Catherine