July 5 (UPI) -- The main focus of economic cooperation between Russia and China is on energy-related matters, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
Putin hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin for bilateral talks. Touting the strength of the relationship, the Russian government said trade with China last year increased by 4 percent to $66 billion.
Russia is a top oil exporter to China, the second-largest economy in the world behind the United States, and is tapping deeper into the market for natural gas.
"Our priority area of cooperation is energy," Putin said in a statement.
Bilateral trade for the first five months of the year is up 26.1 percent to $32.4 billion. Putin said his government would capitalize on that momentum by building stronger natural gas links to China.
Russian natural gas company Gazprom last month said it was ready to sign off on documents related to the so-called Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline. Gazprom has a 30-year sales agreement with China National Petroleum Corp. that calls for 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year through the pipeline.
China, meanwhile, holds a minority stake in a liquefied natural gas facility on the Yamal Peninsula alongside French energy company Total and Novatek, the largest private natural gas company in Russia. The project has the capacity to produce about 16.5 million tons of natural gas and exports could target consumers in the Far East.
"Construction of the Yamal LNG production facility is in the final stages," Putin said.
China's president made only vague references to energy in his public statements, but stressed both leaders would take a message of globalization to a summit for members of the Group of 20 later this week in Hamburg.
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to discuss the role of liquefied natural gas sourced from U.S. shale basins as a strategic asset in Eastern Europe. Poland, which relies almost exclusively on Russia for its natural gas supplies, received its first-ever shipment of LNG from the United States last month.
Russia meets about a quarter of total European demand for natural gas and Trump's agenda could be clouded by ongoing investigations into administrative ties to the Kremlin and Russia's alleged role in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.