President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, for a summit where some key economic concerns came into focus.
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During a joint press conference, Putin said the pair of world leaders agreed to take steps to form a healthier business relationship between the two countries.
“We agreed to create a high-level working group that would bring together captains of Russian and American business,” he said. “After all, entrepreneurs and businessmen know better how to articulate this successful business cooperation…”
The press conference followed a two-hour closed-door meeting, where a few additional economic disagreements may have arose.
Trump said he and Putin spent some time talking about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
“After today, I am very sure that President Putin and Russia want very much to end that problem, [they’re] going to work with us and I appreciate that commitment,” Trump said.
For the most part, Moscow has refused to go along with global measures to put an economic squeeze on the rogue nation.
While China has by far the most economic influence over Pyongyang, Russia’s compliance with the international effort would be beneficial. Russia is one of the top countries where North Korea imports goods from, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. Russia was also believed to have been helping North Korea ship coal last year, in violation of United Nations sanctions. Coal exports from Pyongyang have been banned since August 2017 in an effort to cut funding for the country’s nuclear program.
Putin and Trump also spoke about working together to regulate oil prices on the international market.
From Putin’s perspective, sanction relief has been another top concern. The U.S. imposed a slew of sanctions on Moscow beginning in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Additional sanctions were imposed after U.S. intelligence officials concluded that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
In April, the Trump administration designated seven oligarchs and their 12 companies, along with 17 senior Russian government officials for engaging “in a range of malign activity around the globe.” The world’s second largest aluminum company, Rusal, was among the companies sanctioned at that time. Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska—who is also sanctioned – stepped down as director of Rusal and agreed to reduce his stake in the company in an effort to get the sanctions against the aluminum giant lifted.
While sanctions were not directly addressed during the press conference, experts expected private discussions could pave the way for future negotiations.
Trump indicated that Monday’s meeting was an initial step toward changing the tone of relations between the two countries.