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Economic Development Mission to Bosnia and Croatia a Success

By Bob Lyle

Washington, July 18 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. Commerce Department says its economic and business development mission to Bosnia and Croatia last week produced agreements ranging from expanding business and investment opportunities to opening two vital ground transport links between the two neighbors.

The delegation, led by Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, included a number of senior U.S. government officials as well as executives from 18 major corporations interested in doing business in the former Yugoslav republics.

U.S. officials said the three-day visit to Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Tuzla and Zagreb was designed to involve American firms in the reconstruction effort that will be financed by international donors. It is also designed to help native businesses grow and develop.

Kantor said the recovery of war-ravaged areas will depend on the people themselves.

"It is trade, not aid, that will assure the people of Croatia and Bosnia the security and stability of a prosperous economic future," he said.

In an assessment of the mission, the Commerce Department says a number of significant agreements and understandings were signed or initialed. They include:

-- A U.S.-Croatia Bilateral Investment Treaty, which improves the climate for American investment in Croatia.

-- A Croatian-Bosnian-U.S. agreement to cooperate in two vital transportation projects: the construction of a railway link and road between the port of Ploce and Sarajevo, leading to the Sava River in the north (Ploce is the Croatian port leased to Bosnia under the Dayton Accords to give it world shipping access); and the opening of a road from Zagreb in Croatia to Bihac in Bosnia, then south to the tourist center of Dubrovnik in Croatia.

-- An agreement by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency for a half-million dollar feasibility study to develop modern facilities for the port of Ploce.

-- An agreement in principle between the Croatia State Tourist Board and a U.S. company for $2 million dollars in marketing services to help restart the tourist industry.

-- An agreement with Bosnia and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to provide political risk insurance to U.S. investment in Bosnia.

-- An agreement for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to provide $200,000 worth of air traffic control training to Bosnia. -- An agreement by several American government agencies to fund a Central and Eastern Europe Business Information Center, with commercial offices in Sarajevo and Zagreb.

-- Memoranda of understanding with U.S. firms for the construction of a gas power project and a power generation project in Croatia.

-- A memorandum of understanding for financing of $1 million worth of infrastructure construction projects in Bosnia.

As the delegation departed last weekend, Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic said "the greatest possible assistance for our country is the assistance providing us business."

U.S. officials said a number of the corporations which sent executives on the trip are discussing contracts and potential business deals with Bosnian and Croatian firms.