To strengthen business ties between Ukrainian and German companies, the European Business Association and Global Business for Ukraine organized a workshop titled "Ukraine: Business Opportunities" with the participation of German business associations - BME and the German Eastern Business Association. Anna Derevyanko, the Executive Director of the European Business Association and co-founder of Global Business for Ukraine, shared information with the attendees about the overall economic situation in Ukraine, the business climate, and companies' operations amidst the war. Despite the full-scale war, 99% of the Association's member companies operate, with 63% investing in their businesses. These companies persevere and remain reliable partners despite numerous challenges and difficulties. Furthermore, 83% of these companies have mobilized employees, which presents an additional challenge for employers. Nevertheless, the companies support their mobilized workers and the armed forces to contribute to Ukraine's victory. Other challenges for companies in Ukraine include logistics, supply chain restructuring, brain drain, shrinking domestic market, and lack of financing. Therefore, in her speech, Anna called upon international companies to support Ukraine through collaboration with Ukrainian companies, purchasing Ukrainian goods, and developing joint investment projects. This is of utmost importance for the economic recovery of Ukraine. We were glad to hear assurances of long-term support for Ukraine from the German business community, which aligns with the strategic vision at the governmental level expressed by representatives of BME, Olaf Holzgrefe, and the German Eastern Business Association, Stefan Kegelbahn. Dr. Torsten Latz, a representative of Deutsche Bahn AG, shared successful cases of cooperation between Ukraine and Germany. He noted that their Ukrainian partners have remained committed despite challenging conditions, even during times of war. Moreover, Ukraine has proven to be a reliable partner when other suppliers and partners of Deutsche Bahn were unable to provide their goods or services, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when selecting partners, Deutsche Bahn evaluates all representatives impartially and pays attention to the principles of sustainable development and the code of conduct of potential partners. Prof. Dr. Rainer Lindner, a representative of Heine + Beisswenger Gruppe, also shared his experience of working in Ukraine and collaborating with Ukrainian companies. While the company used to import steel products from Ukraine, it now, on the contrary, supplies certain products for reconstruction projects. Dr. Lindner highlighted that the war unleashed by russia has significantly impacted the metallurgical industry as a whole and expressed his wishes for its prompt recovery, particularly taking into account modern trends in the industry's further development, such as "green" technologies, circular production, digitalization, and the CBAM mechanism. During a special panel, representatives of businesses operating in Ukraine shared their overview of the current situation and discussed their strategies for adapting to new realities while sustaining business growth. Despite facing numerous challenges, Mauro Longobardo, CEO of ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih, emphasized that the company remains committed to producing goods and meeting customer obligations. One of the biggest challenges during this period has been restructuring supply chains, as the production volumes are too large for the domestic market. Before the full-scale invasion, 80% of the company's products were exported through Ukrainian seaports. However, with the onset of russian aggression and port blockades, logistics became a major problem as shipments were redirected to railways, causing significant traffic congestion at the western border of Ukraine. ArcelorMittal used to export less to the EU but has increased its presence in European markets over the past year and a half due to lifting quotas. Currently, logistics have improved, and supply chains have been restructured. The company continues to support and pay salaries to its 26,000 employees. And with the unblocking of seaports, it aims to restore 100% of its previous production capacity within three months. Mauro also highlighted that the European integration process would enable the enterprise to transition more swiftly to modern environmental standards in the metallurgical industry. Fujikura Automotive Ukraine continues to operate and fulfill all obligations to customers and partners. According to Andrii Matsyhin, the company’s General Director, the successful operation amidst the war can be primarily attributed to thorough advance preparation for various potential scenarios. The company prepared for a full-scale war and developed a detailed action plan with instructions for its operations. Such strategies for force majeure situations are relevant for any company, even in peaceful countries. Joining the meeting from the Centravis office in Nikopol, Yurii Atanasov, the General Director at Centravis Ukraine, shared the difficulties the company has faced since the early days of the full-scale invasion. These challenges include mass emigration, mobilization into the armed forces, transportation and logistical collapse, cessation of suppliers' operations, and continuous shelling, under which the company and the entire city still operate. Additionally, there is the constant threat of potential provocations at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is only 8 kilometers away. Despite immediate threats, the company continues to operate and gradually restore production to the levels of early 2022, along with revenue levels. Mr. Atanasov emphasized the exceptional support received from customers, with a significant majority representing German companies. This is because 97% of the company's products are exported, with 63% going to Germany. Support remains strong due to the company's seamless delivery processes that have been established. Additionally, even after the full-scale invasion, the company built and opened a new plant in Uzhhorod, focusing on the needs of the automotive industry. The resilience and success of our companies are truly remarkable! Anatolii Kochetov, the Executive Vice President at Sigma Software, provided insights into the current state and development potential of the IT industry. Since 2014, the company has been developing and updating action plans for various force majeure situations. Therefore, the company approached the most significant challenges of the present prepared, particularly in areas such as personnel safety, operational continuity, booking of conscripts, compliance, talent acquisition, and cybersecurity. The Ukrainian IT industry is experiencing rapid growth. Over the past 6 years, the share of computer services in the overall export structure has increased from 15.9% to 45.6%. And the share of the IT sector in the country's GDP has risen from 2.1% to 4.6%. Mr. Kochetov believes in the further rapid development of the IT sphere and the strengthening of its investment attractiveness, particularly through talented specialists, favorable tax regulations, open dialogue with governmental bodies, and significant potential in recovery projects.
The participants of the meeting also had the opportunity to learn about the services provided by the Export Credit Agency of Ukraine and their crucial role in facilitating international trade. We hope that the discussions within this workshop and other international events organized by the European Business Association and Global Business for Ukraine will positively impact the development of partnerships between Ukrainian and German businesses and strengthen bilateral trade relations. We sincerely appreciate the support of our partners from BME and the German Eastern Business Association!