For nearly two decades, a sister city relationship has existed between Baltimore and Odessa, the Soviet Union's major international Black Sea port city in the Ukraine. Over the years, this link has had its ups and downs, depending on the political climate between the United States and the Soviet Union. But even in the best of times, it has rarely gone beyond ceremonial toasts, flowery declarations and occasional exchanges of delegations.
As a result of the changes that are going on in the Soviet Union, this relationship for the first time is showing promises of normal, regular contacts. One sign of this happening is the creation of the Odessa-Baltimore Trade Council to promote commerce between the two cities. That, in turn, prompted a visit to Baltimore this week by an eight-member delegation from Odessa which included municipal officials in charge of economic development and the city's major industries.
The visit could not have come at a more auspicious time. With President Bush approving $1.5 billion in agricultural loan guarantees and preparing to grant the Soviet Union a most-favored-nation status in tariffs, trade links between the two countries are certain to grow. In the meantime, the union treaty that is being worked out between the Kremlin and nine republics is likely to result in greater privatization and local control of industries keen on foreign trade. As trade grows, the ports of Baltimore and Odessa could be major beneficiaries.