LVIV, Oct. 6 â€“ President Viktor Yushchenko said Thursday he will meet lawmakers next week to persuade them to approve bills needed for Ukraineâ€™s accession to the World Trade Organization by the end of the year.
â€śThis is the task number one,â€ť Yushchenko said addressing a Ukraine-European Union business forum in Lviv. â€śI will do anything that we join the WTO in December.â€ť
Parliament approved seven important WTO bills in early July, including the bill aimed at cracking down on CD/DVD piracy. Debate over another seven bills was postponed until September, but the government dismissal on Sept. 8 had further delayed the debate.
Yushchenkoâ€™s comments show the new government will reinvigorate its push for accessing the WTO, which is expected to help Ukraine boost its exports to new markets by at least $8 billion next year.
The same message was delivered by Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov to investors at an international conference on Ukraine in Brussels on Thursday.
â€śWe view the joining of the WTO as a tactical goal of the government and as a strategic tool for the countryâ€™s economic development,â€ť Yekhanurov said. â€śInternational experts admit itâ€™s realistic for Ukraine to join the WTO this year.â€ť
The message undermines recent speculations that Ukraine may have agreed to postpone its drive towards the WTO membership in exchange for securing lower natural gas prices from Russia. Russia has been also planning to join the WTO by the end of the year, but analysts said it was likely to miss the deadline.
Economy Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk, who is responsible for the WTO membership process, said Ukraine had already approved 80% of all required measures needed for the accession.
The final decision over Ukraineâ€™s accession to the WTO is expected between Dec. 13 and Dec. 18 at a WTO conference in Hong Kong, while before that Ukraine will have to get clearance from a special working group.
Ukraine seeks to join the WTO in December as this would open door for subsequent talks with the European Union over joining a free trade agreement.
Yushchenko said such talks may take 12 months, while afterwards Kiev would probably push for starting talks with Brussels over getting an associate membership in the EU.
These steps are in line with Yushchenkoâ€™s strategic goal of joining the EU within the next decade, a goal that had been somewhat tarnished earlier this year by referendums in France and The Netherlands rejecting EUâ€™s constitution. (jp/ez)