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6 Jul, 2009 07:33

Upside on US Russia business ties

At talks in Moscow with President Medvedev on Monday, Barack Obama will ask Russia to remove trade barriers, but RT met one US businessman making the current environment work.

Paul Heth, the CEO of KinoStar cinema chain in Russia, is a shining example of one U.S. businessman, who finds that working in Russia has delivered a dividend. He’s one of the few American businessmen in Russia who's stayed the course. Having started from a single cinema in 1993, his KinoStar chain is now a market leader. Ignore US politicians and media, he says, and focus on the facts.

“You know what, Russia for the motion picture industry in America, it's between the 5th and 7th largest market now for each of the major US film studios, that's a tremendous number. When I started my career, it was in the hundreds. Russia's definitely the hottest, most dynamic market. I don't see the bogeymen or the problems that people speak about Russia, because I live it every day.”

The US holds just 4% of Russia's trade. Experts blame America. Washington special interests, notably the mighty farming lobby, want more concessions from Moscow for membership of the World Trade Organisation, but WTO rules would themselves open Russia's economy according to Yaroslav Lissovolik, Chief economist at Deutsche Bank Russia.

“I quite frankly believe that one of the best things that could have been done early on, in Russia's transition in the 1990s on the part of the West, the European Union, the United States, all of the world community, would have been to bring Russia into the WTO as quickly as possible.”

But U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk claims a quote "Russia-created crisis". He raps "unfair" import taxes, its ban on US meat, not to mention open violation of intellectual property. For American business in Russia, the film industry crystallises its benefits and dangers. The $850 million market is dominated by Hollywood, but a quarter of that is pirated. Copyright protection will be discussed by Obama when he meets Medvedev this week.