ACCESS TO SOVIET MARKET VITAL TO A PACT, EXPERT SAYS

ACCESS TO SOVIET MARKET VITAL TO A PACT, EXPERT SAYS

Concluding a U.S.-Soviet trade agreement without a formal structure already in place to make it easier for Americans to do business with the Soviets would be tantamount to putting the cart before the horse, says a former official of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Trade and Economic Council.

Glasnost (liberalization) is great, market access is better, said Eugene Milosh, who served as the council's vice president of operations from 1973 to 1980.If (Soviet) economic restructuring is applied to international trade as it is to the domestic economy, then market access should be made available. So far, this has been slow, he said.

As operations point man, Mr. Milosh was responsible for setting up the Moscow office of the council, which works to promote trade between the two nations. He now is president of the New York-based American Association of Exporters and Importers.

What's needed now is a bureau and the right mentality to develop trade and facilitate it with American companies large and small, Mr. Milosh said.

Such a bureau could, for instance, arrange accomodation and lower fares for executives traveling to the Soviet Union, make sure plant visits are lined up, see that factories offer trial runs to sample products, he said.

He was responding, in a Journal of Commerce interview, to optimism voiced earlier this week by Commerce Secretary William C. Verity about an agreement to expand trade between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The secretary and other U.S. officials are in Moscow far talks with their Soviet counterparts. Also in Moscow are some 500 executives of U.S. companies for the 11th annual meeting of the U.S.-Soviet council. The three-day meeting is scheduled to end Wednesday.

Large companies can spend $10,000 to go to this meeting of the council. A small company has to think twice, Mr. Milosh said.

Unlike small and medium-size companies, big corporations have the resources to commit staff, a budget and a period of three, four, or five years to get the big projects, he said.

If a small company goes over, it has to be accorded hospitality. It would want to get to the right plant, talk to the right manager. If it can't, it won't go a second time, Mr. Milosh said.

Without a mechanism to provide these services, a bilateral treaty would be premature, not practical, and politically won't fly in today's times, Mr. Milosh said.

I see deja-vu, he said of the current flurry of activity between Moscow and Washington.

Many American companies rushed to take advantage of the thaw in relations between the two sides, he explained.

Many were discouraged. Few made it - that is, they covered their investment and development expenses, he said.

Mr. Milosh said he does not expect to see easier access to Soviet markets in the near future. He bases this on a recent conversation he had with Soviet economist Abel Aganbegyan, who is believed responsible for many of the economic reforms, or perestroika, espoused by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Mr. Milosh said he asked Mr. Aganbegyan during his visit to the United States earlier this year whether perestroika would allow new associations and collectives to deal directly with Western partners in business.

He said: 'In two to three years, but they will still have to go through a middle man.' He did not define 'middle man,'Mr. Milosh said.

Mr. Milosh anticipates nothing more than a handful of American companies going into joint ventures with the Soviets in the next few years.

He contrasts the obstacles to expanded Soviet trade with the lowering of obstacles by China. When China opened to the West in the late 1970s, it opened access to its markets, Mr. Milosh said.

The Chinese said: 'Come in, tell us how to modernize, how toredesign.' In the Chinese experience, you're welcomed to any plant.

The Soviets must do the same for themselves, he said. The U.S.-Soviet council is not in the business of facilitating trade. The real role of council is to generate public relations, give visibility to the potential for expanded trade between the two countries, he said.

The two countries now exchange about $1 billion worth of goods a year.