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Pennsylvania businesses signed deals with Ukraine while it was trying to woo Trump

Deals struck by Ukraine's last president surface in new reporting on business deals struck under President Trump.

Assembly of GE Transportation locomotive at plant in Erie, Pa.
Assembly of GE Transportation locomotive at plant in Erie, Pa.Read moreDOUG BENZ / Bloomberg

Three industrial businesses in Pennsylvania signed agreements with Ukraine in 2017 and 2018, under the leadership of its former president, Petro Poroshenko, as his administration went on a charm offensive with Donald Trump.

The three companies — GE Transportation, Westinghouse Electric, and XCoal Energy & Resources — all signed deals to sell their goods to Ukraine, including coal, rail cars, and nuclear plant equipment.

Trump was “exchanging political favors” with Ukraine long before the telephone call with the current Ukrainian president that sparked an impeachment inquiry, the New York Times reported Monday. The article also shed light on how some Pennsylvania businesses got deals signed that in hindsight could have had political overtones.

XCoal and GE Transportation did not respond to requests for comment Monday. Westinghouse said it had no comment.

Ukraine received coal from XCoal, of Latrobe, under an agreement reached by Poroshenko and Trump during the former’s visit to the United States in 2017. The contract helped Ukraine at a time when its key coal resources were being controlled by separatist forces.

Xcoal and Centrenergo, the Ukrainian state energy-generating utility, signed a contract for the purchase of 700,000 tons of anthracite. The first shipment of 85,000 tons left from Baltimore to a port near Odessa.

GE Transportation of Erie in 2018 signed a $1 billion agreement with Ukraine, a milestone in the country’s efforts to modernize its transportation infrastructure and strengthen its position as a European rail hub and trade corridor.

The agreement, reported at the time to be the largest ever for GE in Ukraine, included 30 GE Evolution Series freight locomotives to Ukrainian Railways as well as additional locomotive kits over 10 years, the rehabilitation of locomotives in the railway’s fleet, and long-term maintenance services. Poroshenko presided over the signing ceremony alongside Rafael Santana, president and CEO of GE Transportation.

Shortly afterwards, GE Transportation was acquired by a publicly traded company called Wabtec, short for Westinghouse Airbrake Technologies. Wabtec’s purchase of the $4 billion-a-year GE Transportation division doubled the size of the company overnight.

The purchase led to the early termination of a national labor contract with GE. The Erie plant was the last factory covered under a 70-year-old agreement after GE spun off the other factories’ work, largely to nonunion plants in the United States or overseas, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Finally, Westinghouse Electric Co. in 2017 signed a deal with the state-owned Ukrainian company PJSC Turboatom to “cooperate on increasing the capacity of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. Turboatom is one of the world’s leading companies in designing and manufacturing turbines for nuclear, thermal, and hydro power plants,” the companies said in a joint statement at the time.

“This strategic cooperation with Turboatom is an excellent example of how Westinghouse is committed to providing our customer, Energoatom, with innovative technical solutions to further improve plant capacity, efficiency, and safety,” said Aziz Dag, Westinghouse vice president and managing director, Northern and Eastern Europe, in the statement. Energoatom operates the nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

The Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine wanted a significant power upgrade of its Energoatom VVER-1000 reactors, and Westinghouse had been working in the Ukrainian market since 1992. Westinghouse has a joint venture in Kharkiv, the nation’s second largest city.