Monday, April 23, 2007

Ukraine Needs to Pass Legislation to Join WTO

Ukraine must pass nine pieces of legislation within the next month to keep alive any chance of joining the World Trade Organisation this year, the country's finance minister said on Friday.

"Serious matters remain to be completed and they depend on joint action by the government and parliament," Anatoly Kinakh told a news conference.

"There are about nine bills to be passed. This is pre-condition for joining the WTO. We would then still have a chance of joining by the end of the year."

The remaining legislation marked the "final stage" before former Soviet republic could join the WTO after more than 13 years of negotiations, he said.

Pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, who was swept to power in 2004 by "Orange Revolution" mass protests, had hoped to win admission to the WTO in his first year of office as part of his drive to move Ukraine closer to the West.

Government ministers at the end of 2006 had said all necessary legislation had been passed and Ukraine was on course for WTO membership in the first six months of this year.

Kinakh said the outstanding bills dealt with health guarantees linked to genetically modified foods as well as farm sector taxation, standardisation and certification issues.

He said he hoped Ukraine's political crisis, provoked by a presidential decree dissolving a hostile parliament and calling a snap election, would not impede the passage of the bills.

"The bills are not very long and if parliament remains able to work, we intend to spend no more than a month on examining and passing them," he said.

Parliament has continued to hold regular sessions in defiance of the dissolution order and has challenged the decree in Ukraine's Constitutional Court.

Sources: Reuters