Hong Kong trade with Russia officially nearly doubled last year but some estimates put the increase at six-fold. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) said trade broke the US$700 million mark, making Russia Hong Kong's 33rd most important trading partner. Russian imports were up by nearly 300 per cent to about US$450 million, three-quarters of which was re-exported. But the International Moscow Bank estimated trade was more than three times higher than official figures at US$2 billion. The Russian Trade Association in Hong Kong said trade was 'several' times higher. The association's director, Peter Gordon, said: 'The variance is a result of the difference between 'business' and 'trade'. 'A great deal of Russia-Hong Kong business controlled by Hong Kong companies does not pass through Hong Kong at all. Russian steel, for example, is sold directly to China and does not show up on Hong Kong trade figures. Business is far greater than most people realise. The discrepancy illustrates Hong Kong's regional and multi-national role.' Russia has a trade surplus with Hong Kong. Exports from the territory were down six per cent last year to US$240 million and the TDC is eager to redress the imbalance. Business delegations are being organised to participate in two major trade fairs in Moscow next year - the International Consumer Goods Expo in January and the MODA International Fashion Show in March. 'There is a large, unfilled market niche for high-end fashionable business suits and casual wear for the middle-class,' a TDC report says. Winter coats, including expensive leather jackets, sell well and demand for household electrical appliances like irons, vacuum cleaners and kitchen equipment is growing rapidly. Audio and video equipment, car audio systems and televisions are also in demand. With backward telecommunications networks, pager and mobile phone sales are growing. Hong Kong company Champion Technology has set up a joint venture paging service - the first using the Russian cyrillic alphabet. Toys and gifts are in demand as are personal computers, with sales exceeding one million a year. Russian companies are apparently keen to source souvenirs from Hong Kong, ranging from stationery, leather organisers and wallets, lighters and timepieces. Mr Gordon said opportunities were greatly under-exploited. 'Russian companies are keen to maximise their export potential with the help of Hong Kong's international trading connections,' he said. He urged potential exporters to emphasise quality brand names. Further potential existed to provide representation and financial servicing in Hong Kong for Russian enterprises not yet in a position to establish their own offices in the territory.