U.S., Ukraine agree on market access, a major step toward Ukrainian WTO membership

The United States and Ukraine have come to terms on access to each other's markets, a major step toward membership in the World Trade Organization for the former Soviet republic.

Scott Elmore, spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, said Wednesday that Portman and the Ukrainian economy minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, will sign the document in Washington on Monday.

Portman, who announced the agreement while in New Delhi, India, with President George W. Bush, called it a milestone in Ukrainian-U.S. trade relations. "It confirms Ukraine's commitment to broad-based reform and economic liberalization. It also demonstrates Ukraine's resolve to join the international trading system."

Even after the agreement is signed, one formality will remain before it can take full effect. As a former component of the Soviet Union, Ukraine is covered by the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a 1974 remnant of the Cold War that ties trade to Soviet policies on Jewish emigration and other human rights considerations.

A permanent waiver of the law will be necessary for Ukraine. The Senate already passed its version; the House of Representatives has yet to vote.

Only then will Ukraine enjoy "permanent normal trade relations" with the United States, which will mean the WTO tariff and other benefits can be applied once Ukraine is accepted to that organization.

Ukraine has been negotiating terms of accession since 1994, first to GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and later to the WTO. It still has talks under way with eight other countries, which must be completed before it can be considered for full WTO membership.

In his statement, Portman said the success of the Ukrainian-U.S. negotiations means "we can expect greater bilateral cooperation on economic issues and a strong boost to Ukraine's efforts to complete the accession negotiations."

The statement said the United States hopes to conclude agreements soon with Russia and Vietnam, both candidates for WTO membership, reports AP.


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