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Prime Minister: WTO bills to take 30 days
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Oct. 30 – Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said Monday the government needs some 30 days to submit to Parliament bills that are required for Ukraine’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

The disclosed timeframe suggests Ukraine will not be able to approve all the bills within the two weeks as has been recently urged by President Viktor Yushchenko for joining the WTO this year.

“We set a goal for ourselves to submit to Parliament all the bills no later than December,” Yanukovych said. He said the ruling coalition, led by his Regions Party, will probably approve “most of the bills” in November.

The comments from Yanukovych show the government, and its coalition, will not speed up debates of the bills as had been recently urged by Yushchenko, suggesting the standoff between Yanukovych and Yushchenko continues.

“We don’t mind if the president puts forward an imitative,” Yanukovych said. “But this is primarily the authority and responsibility of the government.”

Yushchenko, concerned about Ukraine’s failing to meet the self-imposed deadline of joining the WTO before the end of the year, last week submitted all bills to Parliament, and urged their fast approval.

Yushchenko, a pro-Western leader, has argued that joining the WTO would help Ukraine to boost exports to other countries, reducing heavy economic dependence on Russia. Ukraine’s foreign direct investments would rise 50% and exports grow 10% each year after joining the WTO, boosting the economic growth by an extra 1.9 percentage points, analysts said.

The joining of the WTO would also open door for Ukraine to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union, one of Yushchenko’s most important foreign policy initiatives.

But Russia, which seeks to reestablish its political and economic influence in Ukraine, has been urging Kiev to postpone the accession to the WTO by ?synchronizing’ the process with the Russians. Russia has been facing delayed accession amid disagreements with the U.S.

Yushchenko’s pro-Western group in Parliament, Our Ukraine, recently accused Yanukovych, whose party campaigned on pro-Russian policy, of deliberately postponing the accession to the WTO to please Moscow in order to get a better natural gas supply deal.

A gas trader controlled by Russian gas giant Gazprom last week announced it would sell gas to Ukraine at $130 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007, a price that had been sought by Yanukovych. Other details of the signed gas agreement are yet to be announced.

Economy Minister Volodymyr Makukha, a Yanukovych loyalist, on Monday confirmed that Ukraine’s accession to the WTO is not likely before the end of February.

“It simply does not correspond to reality to talk about joining the WTO before the end of February,” Makukha said. (tl/ez)




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