TRADE BRIEFS

TRADE BRIEFS

AMERICANS WINNING

BIG KUWAITI CONTRACTSU.S. companies won over $2 billion worth of contracts in Kuwait in 1991, more than double the amount they signed in 1989, a senior U.S. trade official said Wednesday.

Frederick Volcansek, deputy assistant secretary for basic industries in the Department of Commerce, told reporters there still were opportunities here for U.S. companies, but only if they wanted long-term business relationships.

U.S. companies signed $800 million worth of contracts in 1989, the last full year before Iraq's Aug. 2, 1990, invasion.

Mr. Volcansek was on a gulf tour with a delegation from 17 U.S. companies involved in areas ranging from computer technology to foodstuffs.

Diplomats and trade experts in Kuwait say U.S. companies are getting the lion's share of reconstruction contracts, partly because of the key U.S. role in liberating the emirate from Iraqi occupation.

TOURISM BECOMES

NO. 1 INDUSTRY IN FRANCE

PARIS - Tourism became France's biggest industry last year, with a record number of visitors and a record turnover, despite pessimistic expectations due to the gulf war, Jean-Michel Baylet, tourism minister, said Wednesday.

The tourism sector's turnover rose to $113 billion in 1991 from $107 billion in 1990, making it the largest contributor to the country's gross domestic product.

Tourism is now a bigger foreign currency earner than the automobile industry, aerospace or food, Mr. Baylet said.

THAI PRIME MINISTER

MAKES HISTORY IN HANOI

HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet and Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun sat down to bury years of enmity between Hanoi and Bangkok when they met behind closed doors in Hanoi Wednesday.

Hanoi's communist leaders have sought to diversify economic and political ties in Asia and the West since losing aid and trade with Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Mr. Kiet and Anand were expected to sign a protocol on trade and technical cooperation and a memorandum of understanding on rice trade to avoid cutthroat price competition.

Thailand, for centuries one of Vietnam's regional rivals, provided troops and a staging point for U.S. forces fighting Hanoi in the Vietnam War.

US ENVOY STRESSES

PATIENCE ON YELTSIN PLAN

WASHINGTON - Robert Strauss, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, predicted Wednesday that President Boris Yeltsin's free-market plan would fail to produce results as quickly as the Russian leader has forecast.

Mr. Yeltsin launched an ambitious program Jan. 2 to transform the economy of the former Soviet Union's biggest republic into a capitalist free market by freeing prices and exchange rates.

With the harsh fact of price increases sinking in and stirring discontent, Mr. Yeltsin has urged the public to be patient for improvement in living standards in six to eight months.

Mr. Strauss said making the innovations work would require more assistance and support from abroad, notably from the International Monetary Fund.