Posted at 11:11 AM
This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker arrived in Kyiv as a continuation of the Obama Administration’s sustained commitment to supporting the Ukrainian government and people, and helping strengthen the Ukrainian economy. The Secretary’s visit advances the high-level engagement launched during her first visit to Kyiv in September 2014 and follows the first-ever U.S.-Ukraine Business Forum held in July 2015 in Washington D.C.
The Obama Administration has consistently supported a vibrant Ukrainian economy that is led by the private sector. A strong Ukrainian economy that can withstand Russia’s brazen attempt to undermine the stability of a sovereign nation is critical to the entire continent. While Ukraine has made significant strides in improving its business climate, which includes starting to tackle corruption and adhering to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) program, there is still more work to be done.
As America’s chief commercial diplomat, Secretary Pritzker has actively involved the U.S. private sector as commercial diplomats to advise on how Ukraine can create a competitive business climate. On this visit, Secretary Pritzker is accompanied by senior U.S. business leaders who met with President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to talk specifically about what Ukraine can do to attract increased trade and investment. The companies in attendance included Cargill, Citibank, DuPont, Honeywell, NCH Capital, and Westinghouse.
During her trip, Secretary Prizker and Ukrainian President Poroshenko met with a group of American executives to discuss essential steps needed to make additional concrete progress to curb orruption; improve tax administration; strengthen intellectual property rights protection; deepen gas sector reform; and support the rule of law.
The American executives also met with Secretary Pritzker and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk to hear directly from companies on the progress they have seen from Ukraine’s ambitious reform agenda. The U.S. businesses then had an opportunity to share their recommendations for additional measures need to strengthen Ukraine’s business climate and improve trade and investment.
In Kyiv, Secretary Pritzker announced that the Obama Administration intends to work with Congress to move forward with a third, $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine. Over the past 18 months, Ukraine has made progress with its ambitious reform agenda and the U.S. remains dedicated to working with international partners to ensure Ukraine has the support needed to continue these efforts. This loan guarantee fulfills a U.S. commitment to consider providing a third, $1 billion loan guarantee in late 2015 if conditions warrant.
Later in the week, Secretary Pritzker visited the towns of Veliky Pry’tsky and Bila Tsirk’va, and the State Archives of Ukraine to learn more about her family history and heritage.
Secretary Pritzker’s great, great grandfather, Jacob Pritzker, was born in 1831 in Veliky Pryts’ky, the town in which her family name is derived. Secretary Pritzker toured the site of the manufacturing plant that her family may have jointly co-owned in Veliky Pryts’ky.
Jacob and many members of the Pritzker family moved north to Bila Tsirk’va in the middle of the 19th century when Jews were permitted to move to larger towns. In Bila Tsirk’va, Secretary Pritzker visited the cemetery where members of the Pritzker family are buried, and the local, Jewish school. Today, the core of the Jewish community is represented through the school, which has about 150 students (K-12). The school contains a small museum depicting the history of the Jewish people in Bila Tsirk’va.
Jacob Pritzker and his family, along with most of the Jewish population, left Bila Tsirk’va after 1855 to move to Podol, where Nicholas was born. Jacob’s son, Nicholas, was only ten years old when the Anti-Jewish pogroms broke out in Kyiv in 1881. Nicholas sailed for the U.S. in 1922, and moved to Chicago where Secretary Pritzker’s grandfather, Jay, was born that same year.
At the State Archives in Kyiv, Secretary Pritzker was able to view the birth certificates of her great-grandfather Nicholas and his siblings. Secretary Pritzker’s great grandfather was born in Podol, the historic Jewish ghetto in Kyiv, in 1871. He opened a grain wholesale store on Zhitney Rynok, the prominent market square in the city. While the store was destroyed during World War II, Secretary Pritzker was able to visit the square during her visit.