WASHINGTON -- A group of U.S. businessmen was due in Turkmenistan today for the start of the first official American business mission to that Central Asian country, RFE/RL's Central Newsroom reports.
The three-day mission on June 14-16 will explore investment and trade opportunities, especially in the agri-business, aerospace, technology, infrastructure, and energy fields. There will be more than 40 delegates, representing roughly a dozen American companies.
"When you look at Turkmenistan today, there is really not much of a true corporate business community, and entrepreneurship and those types of things are not really developed," the head of the U.S.-Turkmen Business Council, Eric Stewart, told RFE/RL. "[So] being able to work with some of the large multinational companies that are experienced in doing business all over the world is a great opportunity for the Turkmen society and the Chamber of Commerce in Turkmenistan and some of the businesses as they begin to develop -- so they [really] understand the American way of doing business."
RFE/RL asked Stewart whether the American business delegation plans to raise with their hosts the issue of Turkmenistan's human rights record. The Central Asian country has been widely criticized for its rights record and lack of a free press.
Steward said the mission does not plan to formally raise these issues. He told RFE/RL that this is the role of the U.S. State Department, not of the business community.