It might have seemed improbable a few years back: Annapolis businesspeople sitting around a conference table with their counterparts from the Soviet Union, talking construction, farming, manufacturing and shipping.
But that's what went on yesterday at the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce.
While the Commonwealth of Independent States continued making international headlines as the successor to the crumbling Soviet Union, a handful of local business people met with delegations from Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
The Soviet business people stopped in Annapolis aspart of a 10-day U.S. tour, including stops in Washington and New York. With the help of the New York-based East West Association, the visitors hoped to make American business contacts and attract partners and investors as their countries start privatizing government-run industries.
"It will be of interest to know that not only in Moscow are business partners ready to do joint business, but in the republics, they are ready to start new deals, new projects and new ventures," said Sergey Bikov, deputy chief for foreign affairs for the presidentof Uzbekistan.
The parliament of Uzbekistan, a producer of cottonwith the third-largest population in the former Soviet Union, declared independence Sept. 1 and citizens will elect a president by the end of the year, he said.
"Without cooperation and international support, it is difficult to establish a new economy in our republic," Bikov said through an interpreter, adding that the country has passed new laws to support and protect foreign investments and has established a separate bank for foreign trade.
Uzbekistan is especially interested in joint ventures in food processing, cotton processing and tourism. The country does not have enough hotels to accommodate the tourists it expects, he said.
County business people, including a farmer, a homebuilder and a commercial real estate broker, asked the visitors about their concept of joint ventures.
Jerome Parks, a localbuilder of commercial and residential projects, asked the Ukranian delegation whether they expect a market for American-built homes.
Anatoly Mamichev, the Ukraine's vice president for International Affairs, said he hoped joint ventures would bring new technology to the construction industry. His country's technology dates back to his grandfather's time, said Mamichev, who said he's worked in the industry 30years.
The changeover to a free market economy, Mamichev said, will include the real estate market.
One of the major goals for the next few years is to expand the variety of housing available, beyond apartments.
The East West Association, a group that helps set up business deals between the former Soviet Union and the United States, asked that Penny Chandler, the chamber's executive director, be the group's host after she lead a U.S. delegation to the Soviet Union in September.