Eastern European initiative16 July 2002
A new initiative to forge business relationships between eastern and western European companies who trade in raw hides and skins - the Leather Link - got off to a promising start in Budapest, June 20-23. Despite being hit by an air traffic control strike, delegates who made it to the venue made plenty of interesting contacts and the organisers were able to deliver their full programme of keynote addresses. The one unassailable fact, which emerged from the conference, was the very great need there is for such an event. As delegates swopped stories of unfortunate past experiences suffered at the hands of unscrupulous businessmen on the other side of the divide, it became very clear that there was good and bad on both sides and a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding. If business is to be conducted in an orderly manner, more people involved in trade need to get together under the same roof, around the same table, and begin to establish some form of trust and working practice. Russian tanner Alexander Rolgueizer, general director of Russkaya Kozha, was critical of what he saw as a 10% import tax levied by Italy on his exports of crust which delegates from Italy denied categorically. Further investigation revealed that there is a 10% EU tax levied on all countries outside the EU with which they do not have trade agreements. This is just one example of the misconceptions which exist. Discussions as to the location of the next Leather Link tended to point toward Moscow as Russia is the biggest market in the region. Representatives of the two biggest Russian tanneries took part as did those from a large Ukranian tannery plus two Hungarian plants. Most of the delegates were traders. The Leather Link was created by Ron Sauer and organised by the SIC Group, Paris. The beautiful city of Budapest also played its part by laying on a heatwave and a festival culminating in a magnificent firework display to coincide with the end of the final evening.