The U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC) hosted a working meeting with the new U.S. Embassy Economic Section officers in Kyiv on September 8. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the U.S. officials with Ukraine’s leading business community. 

                                                                                                                                                In the picture: John Paul ("JP" ) Schutte, Counselor for Economic Affairs, U.S. Embassy in Kyiv & Morgan Williams, President, USUBC

All three – Counselor for Economic Affairs John Paul Schutte, Deputy Economic Counselor Doug O’Neill and Financial Economics and Trade Unit Officer Michael Latham – presented their overall goals and priorities in front of more than 50 business representatives.

The Economic Section’s primary goal is to build a strong bilateral economic relationship with Ukraine through negotiating government-to-government agreements, facilitating technical assistance opportunities,  and promoting U.S. trade and investment.

Economic growth, stability for Ukraine and U.S. commercial interests are the main priorities of the U.S. Embassy’s Economic Section, said Schutte. “We have one cautionary note that we always like to say to our friends in the business community: don’t come and talk to us when its just when you have problems, we like  to hear about your successes, we’de like to make it an ongoing real relationship,” Schutte said. “I don’t think that’s an issue in Ukraine.”

The U.S. Embassy’s Economic Seciton has a very broad agenda with the goal to have a “stable and prosperous Ukraine so that Ukraine thrives, is an independent country, a democracy with a strong market economy,” Schutte said. “All of these are things are values that Americans believe in and what we are fighting for.”

To achieve these values, Schutte reminded the business community that reform in Ukraine is at the top of the embassy’s top priority: “What needs to happen in Ukraine is what everybody knows – to eliminate the bottlenecks to growth and to foreign direct investment.”

In addition to the three U.S. officers, the roundtable discussion included 10 of USUBC’s members who reviewed recent economic and business developments in Ukraine, the business and investment environment for international companies and other key issues. These were executives representing UkrLandFarming, Burisma Holdings, SigmaBleyzer, PriceWaterHouseCoopers, DHL, Atlantic Group, Mikiland, JKX Oil and Gas, IBM and Squire Patton Boggs. 

The main topics of discussion included: Ukraine’s need for further energy independence, the importance to debundle state-owned oil and gas monopoly Naftogaz, VAT refund reform, judicial reform and the rule of law, banking sector reform, demonopolization and privatization, the need of a stable tax system, and the importance of attracting much more foreign direct investment.

There have been many good policies already accomplished by the National Bank and Ukrainian government “but sometimes we tend to pocket reforms that have already been accomplished and stop looking at the list of things that are left to do,” Schutte said. “And it’s a big list.”

For example, he pointed out that the energy sector is still full of bottlenecks. “We want to see Naftogaz unbundling… to see (Ukraine’s) energy sector properly integrated into the European energy community.”

Schutte reminded that for Ukraine to meet the requirements of the third energy package from the U.S., Naftogaz must be unbundled.  “You are all business people in this room and you understand the importance of good corporate government and the up-to-date processees, supervisory boards that are independent and qualified,” he said. “We are looking at pursuading the government to be serious about that.”

Furthermore, Schutte reminded of the need to push for reform in the judicial structure and the importance of having anti-corruption courts.

Some of USUBC’s members mentioned that many reforms have been done during the past 3 years; however, they are beginning to worry that the process has been stalled and that it might start moving the opposite direction. Some have expressed their concern that Ukraine’s current government does not have a long-term strategy.

“There’s a lot of lip-service about reform but when you look deeply inside, there has not been any real reform in the judicial system,” one USUBC member said.

“The (Ukrainian) government is on the right track but did not do nearly enough of what the business expects,” another member said.

Others reminded that businesses should not forget about the enormous progress that the country already went through. “A lot of work has been done and now we need to look at what has been achieved and sustain it,” a USUBC member said.

Schutte conculded the event on a positive note.

“This has been tremendously useful, I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “Hopefully we are on a run, and this has really energized me and the team.”

 BIOS – 

John Paul ("JP" ) Schutte, Counselor for Economic Affairs, U.S. Embassy in Kyiv -----

John Paul ("JP" ) Schutte is the new Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine.  He has been a Foreign Service Officer  since 1992. This is his second tour in Kyiv, where he also worked from 2004 to 2007.  JP has served overseas in Warsaw as Deputy and Acting Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs, and in Bangkok as Cultural Affairs Officer, and as a political-economic officer in Tashkent, Other postings include The Hague and Amsterdam. 

He has served twice in Washington, most recently as Deputy Director of the State Department's Office of European Union and Regional Affairs.   JP has received the Assistant Secretary's Award for Democracy and Human Rights, and State Department Superior Honor Awards.  A native of Omaha, Nebraska, JP holds a Bachelor's degree with honors in European History from Northwestern University, and a Master's degree from Johns Hopkins SAIS in Western Europe and International Economics.  He has also studied in Germany, France, and Italy and speaks eight foreign languages.

Doug O’Neill, Deputy Counselor for Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy in Kyiv -----

Doug O’Neill is a new Deputy Counselor for Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Doug has served as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer since 2003.  Prior to Kyiv, Doug worked in Hanoi, Vietnam as one of two Deputy Economic Chiefs, leading the Embassy’s busy Environment, Science, Technology and Health Unit. 

Prior to Vietnam, Doug worked as a Desk Officer in the State Department’s Office of Maritime Southeast Asia and a Watch Officer in the State Department’s Operations Center.  Doug also served overseas as a Political/Economic Officer in Paramaribo, Suriname and a Consular Officer in St. Petersburg, Russia.  He is the recipient of multiple Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from the State Department. 
Prior to the Foreign Service, Doug worked as an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan.  He received a B.A. in Economics and English from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which included a year of study at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

Michael Latham - Economic Section Officer - Macroecononmics, Financial Sector, Trade Issues ----

Michael Latham joined the Economic Section of the Embassy this summer and manages a team that covers macroeconomics, the financial sector and trade issues.  Previously he worked in the State Department’s Economic Bureau on trade issues in Eastern Europe and in the Environmental Bureau coordinating U.S. policy with the United Nations Environment Program. 

His previous overseas assignments include the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, the Republic of Macedonia and Kyrgyzstan.  He has received a number of State Department awards.  He received a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College in California and a PhD in Management from the University of Minnesota.  Michael’s wife is also a Foreign Service officer working at the Embassy.