German’s BASF, the world’s biggest chemical company, has signed an agreement with Russian gas giant Gazprom to jointly develop a new gas field. It means a foreign company will be a partner in developing a Russian gas field for the first time.Along with a contract for building high-speed and intercity trains in Russia the gas deal was the centrepiece of a German-Russian business meeting in Hanover attended by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Vladimir Putin. Schroeder said: “We are fostering very close co-operation in the area of energy. This co-operation is also necessary, in light of tensions in other regions, from which Germany obtains the energy that’s so important for its economy. In that respect Russia is an exceptionally stable and reliable partner.” Schroeder said the deal between Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer, and BASF’s Wintershall unit should pave the way for other companies. Russia supplies almost half of Germany’s natural gas and that is likely to increase if a planned Baltic Sea underwater gas pipeline is built from Russia direct to Germany.