By Jake Rudnitsky and Evgenia Pismennaya Jan 30 2020 / International Trade
Russia’s move to close its land border with China is targeting passengers, leaving freight unaffected for now, the government said Thursday.
Only 3% to 4% of bilateral trade turnover comes from people carrying goods through the checkpoints along the 4,210-kilometer (2,615 mile) border, according to Alexander Gabuev, the head of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Russia in the Asia-Pacific program. The ban won’t have much of an impact on bilateral trade, he said. Turnover reached $111 billion last year, according to China’s customs authorities.
AliExpress Russia, an e-commerce joint venture between Alibaba and Mail.ru that sends about $3 billion of goods from China to Russian customers a year, said business is operating as usual.
The travel sector stands to be the biggest loser from the Kremlin’s emergency measures. The Association of Tour Operators of Russia said the ban on group tours from China could cost local travel agencies $100 million in the first quarter. More tourists from China visit Russia than any other nationality—1.3 million in the first nine months of 2019.
The government in Moscow will make a decision on restricting passenger flights between Russia and China on Friday.
Moscow’s biggest airport, Sheremetyevo, serves as a key airline hub connecting Europe and China, ranking second in passenger traffic between the regions as of 2018, trailing only Beijing.
Almost two-thirds of Russia’s exports to China is fuel—mostly crude oil through pipelines, which is unlikely to be affected by border closures.