Bilateral Chamber of Commerce bolsters Canada-Ukraine contacts


by Andrij Wynnyckyj
Toronto Press Bureau

TORONTO - Since its inception in 1993, the Toronto-based Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce, a membership of important industrial and commerical concerns that reaches from sea to sea in Canada, and an office in Kyiv, has been moving steadily to the forefront of agencies that act as intercedents in commercial and financial contacts between Canada and Ukraine.

A recent two-week trip to Ukraine by the CUCC's president, Gerald Fedchun, and its executive director, Bohdan Myndiuk, did much to solidify this position.

The principal purpose of the journey, which included stops in Kyiv, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivske, Kolomyia and Odessa, was to finalize the itinerary for a Canadian trade mission to be led by Ottawa's foreign affairs minister, Lloyd Axworthy, now scheduled to begin on October 14. Other mission stops (vetted on earlier trips) are to include Dnipropetrovske, Luhanske and possibly Kharkiv.

The first phase of the CUCC officers' junket was their attendance at a special conference on trade and small business organized by the Kyiv-based Integro International Center with the assistance of the U.S. Embassy's commercial attaché, Andrew Bihun.

Held in Kyiv on May 15-17, its estimated 600 participants included Roman Shpek, Ukraine's deputy prime minister; Justice Minister Serhiy Holovaty; National Bank of Ukraine Governor Viktor Yushchenko; Joseph Kinach, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development representative in Ukraine; J. Kiers, president of the Brussels-based European Union of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses; Ihor Figlus, head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine; as well as the heads of all regional business administrations in the country.

Mr. Myndiuk opined to The Weekly upon his return that, judging from this conference, Ukrainians have still not outgrown their inclination for Soviet-style presentations of dry statistics (which sent delegates scurrying for hall exits throughout the three-day event). However, the CUCC executive director added that one-on-one informal discussions were quite productive.

"A lot of what you accomplish at such events is often not on the agenda," Mr. Fedchun said. He added that a meeting with Lviv regional presidential economic commission representatives greatly aided the CUCC's vetting of western Ukrainian enterprises.

Following the conference, the two Canadian businessmen traveled to Lviv, where, on May 20, they met with Deputy Mayor Borys Kolos and Mayor Vasyl Kuibida's international relations' officer, Taras Vozniak. The succeeding days included talks with Dmytro Aftanas of the Lviv Chamber of Commerce, and western Ukraine's potential in the clothing and textile industries was explored through visits to the Vesna, Elehant and Svitanok factories, and attendance at a "surprisingly Western-style" (according to Mr. Myndiuk) fashion show.

On May 22, in Ivano-Frankivske, meetings with officials of the Promprylad gas meter manufacturing company provided signs that Ukrainian entrepreneurs were grappling with the general questions facing the country's economy by providing specific technical solutions.

On May 23-24, the itinerant pair were in Odessa where, Mr. Myndiuk said, "some of our most productive meetings took place." Youri Dmitriev, head of the famous port's international relations office, was a known quantity, since he had been in Toronto for the "Ukraine and Partners XX-XXI" trade show earlier that month.

They also met with Alexandr Prokopenko, deputy chairman of Odessa's Municipal Council; Viktor Litovchenko, head of the regional administration of Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade; and Dmytro Sklonny, head of the oblast center's regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Back in his office in Toronto, Mr. Fedchun told The Weekly that Odessa was a city transformed, compared to what he'd seen on an earlier trip. "Everywhere there were signs in Ukrainian; it was quite amazing, because one always thinks of Odessa as a Russified if not outright Russian city," the CUCC president said.

A two-day train ride put them back in the country's capital, where, after a two-day respite, meetings with officials and entrepreneurs resumed, including Roman Jakusewych of the Small Business Association, Valeriy Khmelovsky of the Union of Leaseholders and Entrepreneurs, Rostyslav Zatsepilin of the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Antonian Palamarchuk of the Association of Ukrainian Banks.

On May 28, the agenda-packed day prior to their departure back home, the CUCC officials met with Canadian International Development Agency veteran Emil Baran at the Canadian Embassy, and Mr. Fedchun had a separate meeting with Veles Consulting partner Borys Balan and Dennis Yurkivsky, chief financial officer of the soon-to-be-public Ukraine Enterprise Corp.

That evening, the CUCC tandem attended the opening of the U.S. Business Center in downtown Kyiv, which drew in Serhiy Osyka, Ukraine's minister of foreign economic relations and trade; Mr. Yushchenko, Mr. Figlus and U.S. Ambassador William Green Miller.

In line with his expertise, in the course of his Ukrainian sojourn Mr. Myndiuk had meetings with Vitalij Dmytrenko, chief director of the capital's Kyiv Elektrotransport tram car company, and a representative of Lviv's Tramway firm.

Mr. Fedchun, wearing the hat of a former ITT-Sheraton executive with extensive contacts with the organization, explored the possibility of building a hotel in Mickiewicz Square in Lviv, and on the well-known semi-razed site next to the Bessarabsky Market on the corner of the Khreshchatyk and Shevchenko Boulevard in Kyiv.

Mr. Myndiuk summed up the trip with an optimism that is the hallmark of the group he represents. "We were often asked how we could be so positive, given the hardships people are suffering," the CUCC executive director said. "Maybe it's because I only visit the country every one to two years, but the changes that have occurred at every level are enormous, and they're plain to see - virtually all for the better."

Mr. Myndiuk found the construction boom in evidence across the country and the vigorous, "can-do" attitude prevalent among the younger generation encouraging. He added that the enormous potential of Ukraine's food-processing industry, its capabilities in technology (computers), and the continuing high level of education (including widespread mastery of English) of the population will propel Ukraine toward Western European standards of living.

Mr. Fedchun concurred, in that he also found a big difference from his initial observations, and said the most substantive positive changes were evident in Kyiv.

The CUCC president said applications are still being accepted for participation in the October 14 trade mission. For further information contact Mr. Myndiuk at the organization's headquarters, Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce, 55 Ormskirk Ave., Suite 206, Toronto, Ontario M6S 4V6; telephone, (416) 604-2840; fax, (416) 604-2094; e-mail, shym@msn.com.


Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 18, 1996, No. 33, Vol. LXIV


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