U.S. specialists came away with at least three important conclusions from the recently ended international trade show in Moscow devoted to food processing and catering equipment and technology.
First, the U.S.S.R. really wants to import food-related technology and equipment from the United States.Second, the United States can compete in this non-military market and has some of the world's best technology, which the Soviets need if they are to successfully implement their vaunted food program.
U.S. specialists say the Soviets realize the United States feeds its people very well with an excellent distribution system. In fact, they generally recognize that the United States feeds its 240 million people much better than the Russians feed their 280 million people.
Third, the U.S.S.R. along with China and India make up a consumer market of over two billion people and, the U.S. food equipment specialists contend, These are the markets where we should be concentrating our export efforts.
Some U.S. officials frankly admitted in conversations with me that they met with some resistance among Americans when they began arranging for the Moscow show and inviting U.S. companies to participate in it.
They heard such views as, Why should we help feed the unspeakables? But, the officials felt, the Soviets seem to want to start lessening tensions between the two countries, and mutually beneficial trade is one way to begin.
The implication also was that there are at present few if any other huge consumer markets left that are open to U.S. exports.
The food industry, U.S. sources point out, is a non-defense related activity and a so-called safe area for building up trade links. It would appear that Soviet leaders are giving top priority to the food industry.
General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev recently said the Soviet Union must feed its people better. And Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov followed this up by saying the U.S.S.R. must upgrade its food supply system.
The just-ended Moscow trade show, called Inprodtorgmash-86, contained some firsts for the United States. It was the first U.S. Commerce Department- spo nsored show in the U.S.S.R. since 1978. And it was the biggest single show for the Commerce Department in 1986 anywhere in the world, next to the Paris Air Show.
Some 60 U.S. companies participated, more than half of them attending the Moscow show for the first time.
It also was, it appears, the first time in years that the Soviets fully cooperated with the Americans. One U.S. official said: The Soviets have been real open, very cooperative with us. We have not had better cooperation anywhere else in the world.
Some governments have limited the number of companies that could participate in a show. For example, it was noted that in a recent trade show in China, government officials rejected the presence of some U.S. companies whose goods or services the government was not interested in importing into China. But the Soviets allowed all U.S. firms that wanted to participate in Inprodtorgmash-86 to do so.
Of course, problems exist concerning Soviet payments for increased imports from the United States and from other so-called hard currency countries. In this connection, the specialists mention new ways of doing business that the Soviets often mention these days, including countertrade and joint ventures.
The U.S.S.R. also wants the United States to sell licenses to Moscow to make U.S. equipment both for the Soviet Union's own use and for export.
How successful the trade show actually was, however, will be determined ultimately by how much equipment the Soviets import from U.S. manufacturers.