German and Russian trade figures have taken a considerable dip, according to data from the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations seen by Handelsblatt's sister publication Tagesspiegel. Trade volume between the countries fell in the first 11 months of 2016 by almost 8.5 percent to around €43 billion ($45 billion) compared with the previous year's period.
The decline was mainly due to weaker imports from Russia, which fell by 14.4 per cent to €23.7 billion. German exports managed to stay about the same at €20 billion.
Economic relations between Germany and Russia have suffered as a result of sanctions imposed by the European Union in response to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as falling oil prices. Russia's trade policy has turned increasingly inwards since the first round of sanctions were imposed in March 2014 after the annexation of Crimea. The country has focused on stronger bilateral ties with periphery countries.
"We have to find ways of cooperation and rapprochement with Russia," food and agriculture minister, Christian Schmidt, told Tagesspiegel. "Germany and Europe are the natural trading partners of Russia,” he said, adding that as a country with a huge territory, Russia could “play an important role to ensure food security in the future.”
He said that progress would depend decisively on the implementation of the Minsk peace accord in eastern Ukraine.
A new ceasefire was implemented Monday, after a meeting among Russian, Ukrainian, German and French foreign ministers at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend. Since the Minsk agreement was struck in September 2014, it has not been continuously upheld by Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists, resulting in bloodshed and civilian deaths.
But German officials are hesitant to completely slam the door on Moscow. "Russia is an important global player, so it is important to remain in dialogue," said a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.
The E.U. is continuing to pursue a two-pronged approach towards resolving the political crisis in Ukraine. "It is about exerting pressure (on Russia) on the one hand. This includes sanctions. At the same time, however, it is also about further improving the dialogue and working together on solutions," said the spokesman.