Quayle Signs Agreement to Spur Private Investment in Baltics
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Vice President Dan Quayle signed an aid agreement Monday with the prime ministers of the Baltic nations and decreed that the ″republics are now open for business.″
Quayle returned to his home state to sign the agreement with the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It calls for direct loans and loan guarantees from the federal Overseas Private Investment Corp. to American businesses seeking to invest in those countries.
OPIC also provides political risk insurance, or protection for businesses against war, revolution, confiscation of their property and local currencies not being convertible into Western currencies.
″The republics are now open for business, and I hope there is a lot of business that goes there,″ Quayle said in the signing ceremony at an Indianapolis convention center.
Quayle also said the Baltics have accepted a U.S. offer to send Peace Corps volunteers to provide aid in business development and English and environmental education.
Edgar Savisaar of Estonia, Ivars Godmanis of Latvia and Gediminas Vagnorius of Lithuania were here for a three-day meeting of the International Baltic Economic Commission, set up to help the Baltics convert from centrally planned economies to market-based systems.
The United States is supporting their candidacies in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Quayle said. The Bush administration also will ask Congress to provide them with $29 million in aid next year, compared with $14 million this year, he said.
But Quayle said OPIC represents the ″new wave″ of U.S. foreign aid, providing incentives for the type of Western investment needed to drive market-based economies.
Richard Judy, director of the Center for Soviet and Central European Studies at the Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute, which organized the economic conference, said the OPIC agreements will provide building blocks critical to the Baltics’ transition away from centrally planned economies.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, gained their independence after the Soviet coup failed in August. But private businesses still are wary of political instability in the three countries nestled between the Soviet Union, Poland and the Baltic Sea.
Vagnorius said the transition to market economies will meet opposition when they result in initial unemployment and other hardships.
″We have to overcome ourselves,″ Vagnorius said through an interpreter. ″But I believe most of us are ready for this. We understand that what we fail to do today will be more difficult later on.″
The prime ministers also spoke to the Economic Club of Indianapolis, urging the 1,000 Indiana business leaders in their audience to invest in their countries.
Godmanis said the Baltics can provide a geographic, cultural and financial bridge to the Soviet Union. ″We are on the gateways between East and West,″ he said.