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Economic News: Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Croatia, Belarus

  • Robert Lyle



Washington, July 22 (RFE/RL) -- Here's a roundup of economic news from Central and East Europe and the former Soviet Union.

U.S. BUSINESS GROUP WANTS NEW APPROACH TOWARD RUSSIA

The U.S. government should develop a commercial policy that "recognizes that Russia is a key regional economic power and emerging major trading partner," says a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce group.

The group, called the American Business Alliance for Transition Economies of Eurasia, represents American business interests in Central and East Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Current U.S. commercial policy toward Russia is a hodgepodge of aid and assistance programs combined with many trade laws made irrelevant or counterproductive by the end of the Cold War, the group says.

The group says it's time to put U.S. commercial relations on a "solid commercial footing."

U.S. companies face increasingly tough competition in the Russian market from the European Union (EU), which seeks special preference agreements, and from rebounding domestic producers.

Anti-competitive forces are growing in Russia and the United States needs to ensure that "anticipated growth in the trade between the United States and the Russian Federation generates wealth, not tensions," according to the group.

The business group identified these pressing problems in Russia include:

-- Emerging protectionist tendencies.

-- Insufficient and often inadequate trade data.

-- Persistence of state trading.

-- Inadequate notice for regulatory changes.

-- Complex and frequently confusing customs practices.

-- Non-market agricultural trade practices.

-- Restrictions on foreign suppliers.

-- Lack of transparency in Russia's trade arrangements with other former Soviet states.

-- Insufficient mechanisms of enforcement of economic rights.



BOEING LEASES PLANES TO UKRAINE AND CZECH AIRLINE PONDERS JOINT VENTURE

The Boeing Company, one of the largest jet plane manufacturers in the United States, has signed an agreement with state-owned Ukraine Air to lease it two Boeing 767 aircraft for non-stop flights to North America.

The planes will replace two Soviet-built Ilyushin 62 aircraft on routes linking Kyiv with New York, Chicago and Toronto. The airline also plans to add Miami and Los Angeles to its routes.

The planes are being leased through a U.S.-Ukrainian joint venture company and are expected to reduce fuel costs.

Meanwhile, the Czech airline CSA says it is considering forming a joint venture with Boeing to buy one of the Czech Republic's three major plane manufacturers. CSA Director Antonin Jakubse said in a recent interview that three Czech firms are under consideration for the buyout--Let Kunovice, Aero Vodochody and Letov Letnany.

TEXAS FIRM SIGNS TO BUILD AND OPERATE ELECTRIC PLANT IN CROATIA

A Croatian electric power utility last week signed a memorandum of understanding with the Enron Corporation of Houston, Texas, to develop, build, own and operate a natural gas-fired combined cycle power plant in Croatia.

The Zagreb-based utility, Hrvatska Elektroprivreda, and the Texas firm must still work out a power purchase agreement, which will be the foundation for the firm's construction of the power station.Its capacity is expected to be about 180 megawatts.

U.S. TOBACCO COMPANY NEGOTIATING JOINT VENTURE IN BELARUS

RJ Reynolds Tobacco, one of the world's major cigarette manufacturers, says it is negotiating a joint venture to produce cigarettes in Belarus with the Grodno tobacco factory.

Some issues must be settled before the deal can be approved, including a request for tax exemptions, according to a government official. Reports say Reynolds plans to invest $12 million over five years to modernize the factory.
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