U.S. private firms eye Ukraine investment, but Ukraine must reform- U.S. envoy

By Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – U.S. private companies would like to invest in Ukrainian energy, housing, infrastructure, agriculture, transport and mining, but Ukraine must make reforms in accountability and transparency to make such investment secure, a special U.S. envoy said.

United States Special Representative for Ukraine’s Economic Recovery Penny Pritzker told reporters in Brussels that preparations for rebuilding Ukraine after the war with Russia had to start now, even as the fighting continues.

“The key focus is to ensure that recovery takes place in line with international best practices and that includes reforms that bake transparency and accountability into the effort. So reform and recovery go hand in hand,” Pritzker said. “(It) has to start now, even in the midst of an ongoing war and fighting.

Pritzker would not give an estimate of how much money would be needed to rebuild Ukraine after the Russian invasion, but the World Bank has forecast the needs at well above $400 billion – more than governments alone could provide.

“The potential for Ukraine is extraordinary. It has enormous opportunities in agriculture, in energy, in metals and mining, critical minerals and in a number of different sectors. But in order to fulfil that potential, there’s pre-work that has to go on, that can go on successfully now, and the Ukrainian government is up for that challenge,” she said.

Pritzker said that since her appointment to the job by President Joe Biden 13 days ago, she has met with 30 private companies willing to participate in the reconstruction.

“Everyone sees the opportunity and I actually have been encouraged by the private sector’s interest in trying to sort this out,” she said.

“It requires some law changes in Ukraine. It requires some government partnership with the private sector and then it requires the private sector to function,” she said.

She said the importance of Ukraine for the West was underestimated by some and that the country would not only need to survive the military conflict but also thrive economically.

“Ukraine’s undergoing a war of aggression that’s frankly an existential threat to the U.S. and the EU and to our way of life, to our democracy,” she said.

“Ukrainian people have been attacked because they want to be part of Europe and they want to be a democratic nation. If we don’t stand up to that kind of aggression, it’s a threat to that way of life for everyone,” she said.

“If we don’t help Ukraine not just survive, not just deal with this militarily, but also thrive economically, I don’t know where this stops,” she said.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Sharon Singleton)