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President: December WTO decision expected
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Nov. 14 – President Viktor Yushchenko said Tuesday the World Trade Organization will probably next month approve a principle decision on Ukraine’s membership, as lawmakers have been making progress in approving required legislation.

Parliament voted Tuesday to approve six bills in the final reading and one bill in the first reading, and had scheduled to debate and vote on dozen of remaining bills later this week.

“I am confident that on Dec. 21 the working group will submit a positive report concerning Ukraine’s accession to the WTO,” Yushchenko said addressing a Ukrainian-Lithuanian business forum. “We’ve done almost everything for this to happen.”

The development marks a breakthrough in Ukraine’s accession to the WTO following a recent deal between Yushchenko, who has been pushing hard for the accession, and senior members of the Regions Party, which has been opposing it.

The Regions Party, which campaigned on a pro-Russian platform, has been delaying the debate on the WTO bills amid speculations that this was one of the demands from Russia for reaching an agreement on natural gas.

Meanwhile, the progress made by Ukraine on the WTO legislation comes a day after Russia has reported it had made a breakthrough on the WTO accession in talks with the United States. The U.S. has so far been opposing Russia’s accession citing several unresolved business issues, such as opening of foreign bank branches in the country.

Foreign Minister Boris Tarasiuk said that Ukraine may realistically join the WTO in February 2007, the date that has been earlier cited by the Economy Ministry.

“We can realistically talk about completing the accession to the WTO in February next year,” Tarasiuk said in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine on Tuesday.

Tarasiuk, a pro-Western figure, again said that it made no sense for Ukraine to try to join the WTO at the same time with Russia as Russia has persistently demanded. “Each country has its own pace of accession,” Tarasiuk said. “each country has its own history.”

Tarasiuk, an active backer of Ukraine’s pro-Western policy, may be dismissed on Wednesday by Parliament, led by the Regions Party, according to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. The dismissal may trigger a political crisis, analysts said.

The bills that were approved on Tuesday lower duties on exports of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metals as well as canceling administrative regulation of prices in agriculture. (tl/ez)




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