On January 3, 2008 the US-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC) and the Cargill Company hosted a meeting in Washington, DC with William Taylor, US Ambassador to Ukraine, on current political, economic and business developments in the country. Over 65 members and guests attended the meeting.
Ambassador Taylor said that the coming of the new Tymoshenko government to power is a positive sign for the prospects for further reform. He described two possible scenarios for the new Cabinet.
According to the optimistic one, the government coalition would be durable and pursue needed economic reforms. Ambassador Taylor stressed that there is an active dialogue between the president, prime-minister and speaker in Ukraine.
He described this as a positive trend compared to the recent past.
In the Ambassador`s view, the less positive scenario would be the renewal of past infighting within the governing coalition, with Prime Minister Tymoshenko and President Yushchenko maneuvering for political advantage with an eye on the presidential elections. This would again set back reforms.
As long as a clear separation of responsibilities existed between the president and the premier, said Taylor, the government can succeed in its work.
Among the positive trends in Ukraine, Ambassador Taylor noted the active work by Ukraine on WTO accession and rapid passage of a budget. He thought Ukraine would join the WTO soon and that Ukraine would work to solve the ongoing issue with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) that has caused OPIC programs to be closed for Ukraine.
He also said that, in contrast to the past, both the new coalition and the political opposition are focused on economic reforms, fighting corruption, and improving the investment climate. Amb. Taylor said that these trends give him hope for the positive changes in these spheres.
The Ambassador answered a series of questions from the audience about business and economic issues such as VAT tax refunds, grain export controls, intellectual property rights, corporate raidership, private land ownership, and customs controls.
Gene Van Dyke, president of VANCO Energy, Houston, discussed his companies recent activities in Ukraine in a presentation to the meeting. VANCO has signed with the government of Ukraine the first contract for an international company to do deep-water drilling in the Black Sea off the shore of Ukraine.
Irina Paliashvili, head of the USUBC Legal Affairs Working Group, called on the new government deal with legal reform. She noted the current system is archaic, chaotic, and at times absurd.
Paliashvili called for the new government to act fast in order to improve business climate in the country by cancelling the most archaic and damaging legislation. She also called the new government to deal rapidly with WTO accession.
Paliashvili noted that outstanding issues related to legislative reform have been neglected for too long by Ukrainian leaders and called the government of Tymoshenko to face them without further delay.
At the session USUBC President Morgan Williams welcomed MaxWell USA as the first new member of the Council in 2008.
Williams also announced the results of the election of the USUBC executive committee and officers for 2008 which was held at the USUBC annual meeting in December. The following were elected:
Paula Freer, Marathon, Michael Kirst, Westinghouse, Paul Nathanson, The PBN Company, Irina Paliashvilli, Ukrainian Legal Group, Andrew Pidgirsky, Ukrainian American Bar Association, John Rauber, Deere & Co., Samir Sahgal, The Boeing Company, Treasurer, Patrick Sweet, SASI, Arnold Wellman, UPS, Morgan Williams, SigmaBleyzer, Chairman & President, Van Yeutter, Cargill, Jack Heller, Heller & Rosenblatt, Legal Counsel.