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Trade Conference Will Focus on Central and Eastern Europe

January 1, 1995

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Political and business leaders will try to create stronger connections with businesses in central and eastern European nations at a conference here in two weeks.

President Clinton, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and hundreds of business leaders are expected to attend the conference Jan. 12-13.

The Commerce Department and the New York-based Business Council for International Understanding are organizing the summit to reduce obstacles to investment and trade in the region that is home to 100 million people.

In a Dec. 4 invitation to potential delegates, Clinton said the central and eastern European region is ``one of the best new opportunities for American commercial interests in the world today.″

Increased U.S. business involvement in that region, would ``expand our exports, create jobs at home, and help further the process of economic transformation″ there, he said.

Nations invited to ``The White House Conference on Trade and Investment in Central and Eastern Europe″ are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the former Yogoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Commerce Department spokeswoman Carol Hamilton said Russia is not included because it has been working separately with the United States on business development.

The 14 invited governments have been ``very positive, responsive and encouraging″ about the conference, said Munir Hussein, BCIU’s director of programs.

David Fleshler, the event’s Cleveland coordinator, said 200 to 400 U.S. business leaders are expected. About 2,000 were invited.

``It came about because the president was in Eastern Europe about a year ago, and he saw a great need to bring U.S. and eastern and central European business people and government leaders together to talk about doing business,″ said Fleshler, former chief of staff for outgoing U.S. Rep. Eric Fingerhut.

He said Cleveland was chosen as the site, in part, because of its heavy concentration of residents who have ties to central and eastern Europe and business expertise.

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