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UKRAINE

Ukraine Parliament Ratifies WTO Deal

Ukraine's parliament ratified a protocol on joining the World Trade Organization on Thursday, clearing the final hurdle to membership after more than 14 years of negotiations.

A total of 411 members in the 450-seat assembly approved the protocol after a brief debate. The document was signed by President Viktor Yushchenko in February in Geneva after the WTO said Ukraine had met membership conditions.

"Ukraine today has completed all the formal procedures that were required legally for Ukraine's WTO membership," Yushchenko, on a visit to Egypt, said in a statement issued by his office.

The parliament later began approving a series of measures needed to meet WTO requirements, including adjustments to regulations to allow insurance brokers to operate more freely.

Officials say most of these measures will not matter for membership, which will be extended to Ukraine 30 days after ratification. "I believe we are completely ready for joining the WTO," Deputy Economy Minister Valery Pyatnitsky said. "The laws still to be approved are largely cosmetic in nature."

Once Ukraine joins the trade bloc, it can join the working group that is looking at Russia's bid to join the organization. Russian media have speculated that Ukraine could make demands that would delay the country's accession.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly stated that they will not hold up Moscow's bid and trade analysts say it would be in Ukraine's interest to have Russia playing by WTO rules.

Ukraine will become the WTO's 152nd member, ahead of Cape Verde. The island nation's accession was approved in December, before Ukraine's, but it has yet to ratify it.

(The Moscow Times 14.iv.08)

 
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