(AGI) St. Petersburg, June 16 - A collaboration agreement was signed during the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg between foreign investment agency SACE, a CDP Group company, and the Russian development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), "to facilitate economic relations between Italy and Russia". The agreement was signed by Nikolay Tsekhomskiy, First Deputy Chairman of VEB, Alessandra Ricci, Chief Business Officer of SACE and Antonello Colussi, Chief Representative in Russia of the Danieli Group, a steel market leader with a strong presence on the Russian market, as a witness. The agreement "aims to promote economic cooperation between the two countries through the identification and funding of operations of mutual interest and to strengthen cooperation between the parties by identifying new business opportunities. SACE and VEB will also work together in mutual training programmes. Russia - the statement continues - is not only a key export market for Italian companies, but it is also a strategic hub for the whole CIS area. Not by chance is it the first foreign country in the SACE portfolio, with a total exposure of 4.7 billion euros at April 31, 2016." According to forecasts in the new SACE Export Report, the negative trend in Italian exports to Russia will be mitigated over the coming years. It will remain negative for the current year when an 8% decline is forecast - a significant improvement on the drop of 25% in 2014 - and will become positive in 2017 and 2018, at 1.8% and 1.9%, respectively. SACE is looking into several projects in the country worth about 1 billion euros in potential commitments, mainly concentrated in the oil and gas sectors and the metallurgical industry. (AGI) . .