U.S. - Russian Joint Commission on Economic & Technological Cooperation
Business Development Committee
HISTORY OF THE AD HOC WORKING GROUP
The U.S.-Russia Business Development Committee under the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, now titled the Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation, created the Ad Hoc Working Group in December of 1994, to encourage commercial cooperation between the U.S. West Coast and the Russian Far East. At its inaugural meeting, the AHWG appointed the Foundation for Russian-American Economic Cooperation, based in Seattle, Washington, as the U.S. Executive Secretariat. The AHWG appointed a Russian Secretariat in 1996. Located in Khabarovsk, Russia, the Russian Secretariat coordinates AHWG activities in the Russian Far East.
The Working Group was established in response to President Boris Yeltsin's proposal, announced in October 1994, to create a special trade relationship with the U.S. West Coast. During a Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission meeting in December 1994, the late Secretary of Commerce Ronald Brown and Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov signed a joint statement establishing an Ad Hoc Working Group to encourage commercial cooperation between the U.S. West Coast and the Russian Far East.
The Working Group is co-chaired by Counselor to the Department of Commerce and U.S. Ombudsman Jan H. Kalicki and Viktor Spassky, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Moscow, Russia.
In the subsequent years, the Working Group has become a unique example of regional cooperation, combining the efforts of federal government trade and investment agencies from Washington and Moscow, and state and regional government officials with private business. Regional delegates and sector representatives examine industry-specific impediments to trade and investment in twelve industry sectors: Agriculture, Ecology, Energy, Finance, Fisheries, Forestry, Legislative Reform, Mining, Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure, Tourism, Training, and Transportation. Leaders from private business in both the Russian Far East and the U.S. West Coast serve as co-chairs of each sector.
Proposals within each industry sector take the form of Situation-Target-Proposals, or STP's. New STP's are submitted to the sectors during the biannual meetings for approval.
Friday, January 7, 2000 @ 9am PST
Presiding: Ginna Brelsford, AHWG In attendance: Aaltje van Zoelen - Tourism Bill Robinson - Fisheries Charlene Derry - Transportation Charlie Neff - Training Daniel Werner - Agriculture David Gordon - Ecology Ivan Urnovitz - Mining Nick Hughes - Telecommunications Ronda Thompson - Legislative Betsy Lauppe - AHWG Note Taker: Amy Metzendorf, AHWGI. Secretariat Update
A. California Meeting: Ginna Brelsford gave a briefing on the status of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the AHWG.
The AHWG has been working with the Russian Consulate in San Francisco to nail down dates, venues, and the level of participation of California State. Major issues:
- Unless AHWG can provide financial assistance, the Russian participation level is expected to be low. It is high priority to get as many participants from the Russian side as possible to the California meeting. The Secretariat welcomes any ideas for possible funding. This could include a SABIT grant.
- The working group is aiming to hold the meeting in spring or early summer, though fall 2000 is still a possibility.
- Venues: Possible venues include Stanford University, where we could utilize the dormitories on campus for the Russian participants. This would push things back to after June 15, until after graduations end.
- The Fairmont Hotel in San Jose is another possibility. The hotel offers superb service, but is also expensive.
- Cisco Systems facilities may also be used as venues. G. Brelsford and Nick Hughes will explore this possibility.
- The AHWG has not received any word yet from the California State Administration, indicating low interest. AHWG will most likely be organizing mainly with the private sector, and invite a California State representative to attend the meeting and take part in opening ceremonies.
G. Brelsford will be meeting with the Russian Consulate in San Francisco on January 14. She will discuss these issues, and explore private sector companies that are willing to help fund the event.
Action Item: Pass on any ideas on possible funding sources for Russian participants to the Secretariat.
Action Item: Co-Chairs should start thinking about pre-conference sector events for the annual meeting. Funding is available for such events.
Responsible: All Co-Chairs
Deadline: As soon as possible
All Co-Chairs are encouraged to use the AHWG website, www.ahwg.org. All sector pages are now up. The Secretariat wants to make sure that the Co-Chairs are comfortable with the site, and utilize this valuable communication tool. The AHWG website averages 70 hits per week and (as of 1/7/00) has received a total of over 108,000 hits.
Co-chairs are encouraged to use the sector bulletin boards to post any information they feel is interesting or helpful to others interested in their industry sector. These boards can be effective discussion-fostering tools, and a great way to communicate with others interested in the RFE and the industry sectors.
Action Item: Co-Chairs need to explore and utilize the website. If they have any suggestions for related links for their sectors, they are encouraged to contact Amy at the Secretariat.
Responsible: Co-Chairs and Secretariat
Deadline: As soon as possible
TRANSPORTATION - Charlene Derry
G. Brelsford asked C. Derry about the current Aeroflot situation, in terms of transportation for the upcoming California meeting. C. Derry reported that the Aeroflot issue has to do with new environmental noise restrictions. Unless Aeroflot installs new equipment on their planes, or Congress passes a law exemption for the airline, they will no longer be able to fly over the 48 continental states. They can still fly to Alaska and Hawaii, which were not covered in the noise restriction law. G. Brelsford asked about the possibility of Senator Stevens working on a Congressional exemption. C. Derry said that unless an interested American party requests that such an exemption be put in place, Congress won't move on the issue. C. Derry felt that it would take a push from another airline or a Boeing-type of organization to get such an exemption through Congress. A. van Zoelen asked about the possibility of co-sharing flights with Aeroflot. C. Derry responded that Alaska Airlines made such an offer to Aeroflot, but it was rejected.
1. At the last teleconference, C. Derry was optimistic about the modernization of air traffic control in the RFE moving forward. EBRD had received a $50 million dollar loan for this project. There are agreements in place, but the project is moving ahead much slower now. A meeting will take place later in January with EBRD to move things ahead.
2. Nogliky Airport: The concept plan presented to the Russian side was rejected. The Russian side maintained that it was not within their master plan for infrastructure development. Alaska state representatives will be going back to meet with the Russian side, to determine where the disconnect is located.
East by West Corridor Project: (G. Brelsford)
Joe Borich, director of the Washington State China Relations Council, presented the East by West project to the Northeast Asia Economic Forum in Tianjin, China in October. Mr. Borich and the project were well received. Ralph Munro will be traveling to Niigata, Japan to present the corridor project to the "Northeast Asia Economic Conference in Niigata 2000." The conference will be held later this month.
TRAINING - Charlie Neff
C. Neff reported that projects in the training area are moving ahead. With his Russian counterpart V.G. Grigorenko, the training sector is planning a managerial accounting course. Viktor Grigorenko received funding for training of middle managers in railroads. They are also looking for multimodal companies in these areas that would be willing to host Russians in internship programs.
G. Brelsford inquired what specific companies would be targeted for these training sessions. C. Neff responded that companies related to the East by West Corridor Project would be excellent examples.
C. Neff also reported that Mr. Tretyak will be in Seattle from January 22 - February 13, 2000. C. Neff asked if the AHWG could arrange meetings with Mr. Tretyak and transportation-related groups, and with FRAEC.
C. Derry mentioned the past cooperative relations between the Alaska Railroad and the Russian Far East with respect to internships. C. Derry will inquire whether they are still open to internships with Russians.
C. Neff said that the purpose of the training sessions is to target companies not so deeply involved in Russia right now, with the hope that they will become more involved as a result partly of such cooperative training sessions and internship programs.
G. Brelsford asked if other co-chairs would be willing to participate in the International Accounting Standards training sessions. C. Neff explained that the training session is not tied exclusively to multi-modalism-training programs are open to all other sectors as well.
Action Items: The Secretariat will assist with setting up appointments with transportation groups and FRAEC for Mr. Tretyak.
Responsible: C. Neff and the Secretariat.
TOURISM - Aaltje van Zoelen
A. van Zoelen reported that USAID had granted funds to WWF to develop eco-tourism infrastructure in Primorsky and Khabarovsk Krai. The money has not yet been transferred to WWF, so they are currently waiting to move forward.
A. van Zoelen has recently returned from a 3 week trip to Kamchatka. She was very impressed with the tourism companies there. She found the companies to be more cooperative and developed than any others she had seen in the RFE.
A. Visa issue: A. van Zoelen spoke with the US Consulate in Vladivostok about the current visa policies for Russians wishing to travel to the US for legitimate business or tourism. Currently many of these individuals are being rejected for visas. Consulate officials claim that such instances are merely flukes, and that there have been no changes in visa policy. Such officials claim that they have actually granted more visas for Russians this past year.
A. van Zoelen was impressed with Lysbeth Rickerman, US Consul General in Vladivostok. A. van Zoelen felt that she is very supportive of eco-tourism in the RFE, and she mentioned the AHWG as key to promoting business in Russia.
Action Items: G. Brelsford requested that A. van Zoelen write a report summarizing her trip to Kamchatka for the Secretariat.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS - Nick Hughes
N. Hughes reported that the potential Y2K problem was taken very seriously in the RFE. Companies and agencies were working hard to provide reliable service during this period. No major problems occurred during the switch-over from 1999 to 2000, and they are still on stand-by to deal with any potential problems. N. Hughes hasn't heard from anyone in the RFE as Russians are on holiday now, but he expects them to be back soon.
N. Hughes also reported that he will be meeting with E. Baranov from the Russian Consulate in San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 7 and will discuss the California meeting. N. Hughes will contact G. Brelsford to discuss the outcomes of this meeting.
MINING - Ivan Urnovitz
I. Urnovitz has been planning with David Gordon. He is now exploring what a sustainable mining sector would look like in the post AHWG-era. A main problem faced by the sector is how to overcome institutional barriers on the US side-those who don't want to support international mining activities.
In response to funding ideas on how to get the Russian side over to California for the annual meeting, I. Urnovitz suggested a SABIT, or TDA-oriented visit.
G. Brelsford asked about the National Resource Data Center, for which I. Urnovitz had been searching for funding. He replied that it was still hitting an institutional roadblock. He hasn't found a solution yet, and is open to ideas and suggestions.
FISHERIES - Bill Robinson
Bill Robinson gave two additional links for the AHWG website: CCSI, which he described as the best NGO database for Russia, and the Rotary Russia Connections site, with should be up soon. The Fourth Annual Extending Rotary Conference will be held in Seattle later in January, and over 100 Russians have signed up already.
G. Brelsford asked if the AHWG could attend the Rotary Conference to distribute literature. B. Robinson replied that there will be a project fair on Jan. 29, and he will inquire about arranging for a table to distribute AHWG literature.
Regarding the visa problems in the RFE, B. Robinson reported that Senator Ted Stevens wrote to Ambassador Collins and Consul General Rickerman about this important problem. The visa problems are creating commerce problems between the two countries. A. van Zoelen replied that this is the worst problem right now. G. Brelsford asked if this is a problem with the Vladivostok Consulate only. A. van Zoelen replied that there is a similar rule in Moscow, though not as bad as Vladivostok. There the administration is denying those with the most legitimate reasons for travel. B. Robinson said that the problem needs to be dealt with promptly, since it has a chilling effect on commerce. Everyone needs to make their displeasure known to Senators Stevens, Gordon, and Murray, and Consul General Rickerman. D. Werner will be meeting with Consul General Rickerman in mid-January, and that he will write a letter to give to her. D. Werner will speak to B. Robinson later about this.
Activity is off in the Fisheries industry right now. Due to industry reshuffling, the sector has lost several key members of their committee. As the industry reorganizes, the sector is looking for new blood with new interest in the RFE. A meeting will be held next week to gauge who has a real interest in the Fisheries sector, and are willing to work on agenda items. B. Robinson will speak to G. Brelsford and B. Lauppe about this.
Action Items: D. Werner will deliver letter about the visa issue to Consul General Rickerman. B. Robinson and D. Werner will discuss this. B. Robinson will secure a table for AHWG literature at the project fair of the Rotary Congress.
ECOLOGY - David Gordon
D. Gordon reported on upcoming PERC events:
1. There will be an Eco-Tourism Exchange in the end of March 2000. Participants will be from Siberia and the RFE, including Sakhalin, Kamchatka, and Buryatia.
2. D. Gordon has a technical report on Sakhalin Oil Spill Prevention Measures, if anyone would like a copy.
3. The Eco-Tourism Listserv: PERC is exploring how to run the billingual listserv, but that this one will go up soon. One possibility is to hire a consultant to moderate the listserv and do translations. B. Robinson and D. Werner commented that every sector would benefit from a bilingual listserv, which would serve as an excellent communication tool to keep everyone in a sector informed.
Action Item: If any co-chair wants a copy of the Sakhalin Oil Spill Prevention Measures report, please contact D. Gordon.
AGRICULTURE - Daniel Werner
D. Werner reported that agricultural markets are poor in the RFE this winter. As far as he knows, there is nothing happening in the Agriculture sector at this time.
B. Robinson suggested that newly-appointed President Putin favors agrarian land reform. Putin recently published a detailed article entitled, "Russia at the Turn of the Millennium." B. Robinson will send a clean hard copy of the article. The Secretariat will send all co-chairs the URL for the article as posted on the official Russian Government website.
Action Item: B. Robinson will send copies of the recent Putin article. The Secretariat will e-mail the URL to the same article posted online.
Responsible: B. Robinson and the Secretariat.
LEGISLATIVE - Ronda Thompson
R. Thompson talked about Senator Pearce's concern about airfare and travel to the RFE. Senator Pearce wanted to go to Magadan and Khabarovsk, but it is nearly impossible to get over there now. The Alaska State Legislature session runs through May 10, 2000, and Sen. Pearce is disappointed that she won't be able to travel to the RFE until after this session.
A. van Zoelen commented that Japan Airlines was interested in serving Khabarovsk, because of the vacuum left by Aeroflot. They are weighing the possibility of a direct flight route from Tokyo to Khabarovsk as the market opens in the RFE. The number of Japanese tourists traveling to the RFE is also increasing. If Japan Airlines does start service to Khabarovsk, they will be the only carrier there.
R. Thomson is currently compiling Russia's State Duma election results. Betsy Lauppe will send all co-chairs an RFE/RL article on the results of the election.
R. Thompson asked about the upcoming California meeting, and said that Sen. Pearce would prefer the meeting be held in late spring/early summer.
The American side of the Legislative sector has not been in contact with Russian co-chair S.A. Dudnik in a long time. Sen. Pearce needs to communicate with him to discuss sector priorities for the California meeting.
R. Thompson asked if the Secretariat will be traveling to the RFE soon. G. Brelsford replied that Dmitri may be traveling there in the next few months.
Action Items: R. Thompson and Senator Pearce will be in contact with D. Kisselev of the American Secretariat to facilitate communication between the co-chairs.
Responsible: R. Thompson and D. Kisselev.