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Prez to meet Rada leaders over WTO bills
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Oct. 29 – President Viktor Yushchenko is expected to meet Parliament’s group leaders Monday seeking their “urgent” support for bills required for Ukraine’s accession to the World Trade Organization by the end of the year.

The National Security and Defense Council, an advisory body advising the president on strategic issues, met Friday to discuss WTO progress amid reports the process has been delayed.

“The authorities will do everything possible to meet the promise of joining the WTO by the end of the year,” Yushchenko’s press service reported after the Friday meeting.

“The issue of Ukraine joining the WTO in December may be resolved in appositive way only if Parliament urgently makes the required changes to the legislation,” the press service said.

The meeting of the security body and the upcoming meeting with lawmakers underscore Yushchenko’s desperate attempts to push for joining the WTO before the end of the year despite earlier snags.

Yushchenko, who lost a shaky Parliamentary majority after dismissing Yulia Tymoshenko from the post of the prime minister on Sept. 8, is now facing a mounting challenge that may derail the WTO plans.

Yushchenko will increasingly count on opposition groups, such as the Regions Party, led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, for the support of the WTO bills.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych signed an agreement last month that had allowed the Regions Party to back Yuriy Yekhanurov, Yushchenko’s choice, as the new prime minister. The agreement apparently also anticipated support for the WTO bills, but now Yanukovych may have shifted his position.

David Kramer, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said recently there had been signs that Yanukovych loyalists may seek to derail the bills.

“Today, I read that Mr. Yanukovych – after telling me last week that he was supportive of WTO -- is now attaching significant conditions to the support of WTO passage,” Kramer said at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington Oct. 14. The comment was released by U.S. Department of State on Oct. 27.

Kramer, who jointly with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs E. Anthony Wayne visited Kiev early October, met government officials and opposition leaders in Ukraine. He said the support from Parliament was key in Ukraine’s drive towards the WTO.

“The U.S. will not be able to complete bilateral negotiations with Ukraine if the government does not work with the Rada” to approve a package of reforms required to meet WTO norms, Kramer said.

Yekhanurov is expected to visit the U.S. in early November to discuss a range of bilateral issues, including the issue of joining the WTO, government officials said.

Ukraine seeks to join the WTO this year to gain access to new markets globally for its goods that is expected to boost the country’s exports by $8 billion in 2006.

The final decision over Ukraine’s accession is expected to be taken between Dec. 13 and Dec. 18 at a WTO conference in Hong Kong, assuming the country gets a clearance from a special working group.

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said earlier in October that Ukraine was unlikely to join the WTO by the end of the year, a comment that triggered an angry reaction in Ukraine. (tl/ez)




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