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UKRAINE

UkraineThe medical equipment market in post-Soviet Ukraine was estimated to be roughly $170 million in 1997 according to a report by international trade analyst TradePort, and that was during a period when the health system was under serious reconstruction.

Economic challenges have confronted the republic since it became independent in 1991, yet Ukraine is highly receptive to new medical equipment. TradePort writes that most of the medical equipment in the country is older and worn-out, creating a huge market for new gear. Lasers, among other newer therapeutic and diagnostic devices, are sought for their potential to ease the cost of medical procedures, and the demand will increase as Ukraine becomes more urban and its population ages.

Most of the domestic medial equipment manufacturers are left over from the Soviet Union. When the country gained independence, some government-run manufacturers survived and were brought under the authority of the Ministry of the Military, Industrial Complex and Conversion.

U.S. companies are having difficulty cracking the Ukrainian market. Sales of U.S. equipment declined in the mid-1990s. In 1994, $10 million worth of U.S.-made medical equipment was sold in Ukraine. In 1996, that dropped to $5.25 million. TradePort says buyers are not anti-American, but American firms do not adequately focus on Ukraine, despite a bilateral trade agreement that has given Ukraine most-favored-nation status with the U.S. since 1992. For example, TradePort said, many German companies have reps who work exclusively in Ukraine, instead of covering a larger Russian or Eastern Europe region. U.S. companies report making limited headway into the equipment-hungry Ukrainian market during recent years, but hard statistics to verify this trend are not readily available.

Many healthcare facilities in Ukraine are not familiar with U.S. equipment, and that breeds concerns about reliability and serviceability. The prime contact for any U.S. business investigating this Eastern European hotbed should be existing medical equipment dealers operating in the country. The most successful U.S. equipment has been dental, laboratory and sterilization technologies. Even in the case of used equipment, where interest among Ukrainian customers is rising, a U.S. company must find a local dealer to help it enter the market.