Speaking to Ukrainian journalists in Brussels, Roman Shpek, Ukraine's Permanent Representative to the European Union, said that foot-dragging on Ukraine's accedence to the World Trade Organisation may have a deleterious effect on the Ukrainian economy.

In Roman Shpek's opinion, joining the WTO will give a potent impetus to step up structural reforms, attraction of high technologies, energy-saving machinery and equipment, which will benefit the economy, Cabinet's press office reported.

"If Ukraine fails to join the WTO promptly, lacking structural reforms will trigger negative phenomena.

Those factors, which used to underlie Ukraine's relative economic competitiveness, such as Ukraine's dirt cheap labor and the Ukrainian people's repute as a hard working nation, can not be relied upon any longer.

Ukraine's labor efficacy is much lower than Europe's average, industrials consume much more energy than those in Europe, so Ukraine has no competition advantageous.

If the Ukrainian authority sticks to tariffs and quantitative restrictions in foreign trade, Ukraine will lose in attempting to get established on European markets.

Besides, we will gradually lose our stand on the East's markets, if our commodities remain of low quality," Roman Shpek noted.

Touching upon the hackneyed subject of the State's protection of domestic producers, the argument which opponents of Ukraine's joining the WTO habitually resort to, Mr Shpek noted that the WTO offers protection mechanisms, which the bulk of the world's nations efficiently relies upon.

"There are really forms of support of the agricultural sector in Europe, but I would like to remind our "rosy" and "red" politicians that protection is meant for aiding efficient, competitive agricultural producers, efficient proprietors," Roman Shpek noted.

"European governments never support inefficient proprietors, which is why their agricultural producers, while tilling poor soils, harvest several times more produce than Ukrainian farmers on their fat chernozems.

The same could be said about Ukraine's metallurgical industry. You cannot expect free access to EU markets without lowering tariffs for certain products, such as scrap metal.

You cannot expect to cheat your EU partners, so you must be frank, open and just in dealing with them," the Ukrainian diplomat stressed.

According to Roman Shpek, there is just a hypothetical chance for Ukraine to have its bipartite protocol signed with the USA on mutual access to markets of commodities and services.

"This will chiefly depend on the Verkhovna Rada's ability to promptly pass bills, which Ukraine needs for joining the WTO and which the Government has submitted to the Parliament with all the necessary substantiation.

Sometimes, we tend to blame external factors for our setbacks. In my opinion, more often than not, we ourselves are to blame. The root of the evil is in lacking efficient interactions and understanding between the supreme legislature and the executive authority.

If the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine fails to include the WTO issue in its agenda, why should we blame the USA for foot-dragging?," Roman Shpek wondered.

"Ukraine's footdragging on passing the WTO-related bills has negatively influenced proceedings of the Working Group in Geneva toward Ukraine's accedence to the WTO.

The consequences of thus breaking the accedence process may prove disastrous," Roman Shpek warned.

"If Ukraine joined the WTO, we would be entitled to start talks in January 2006 with the European Union toward creation of a Ukraine - EU free trade zone.

Following the 2006 parliamentary elections the time will come to appraise the Ukraine - EU Action Plan's implementation progress.

If the appraisal is favorable, Ukraine will raise the issue of concluding a new agreement with the EU.

If we fail to join the WTO, if the elections prove undemocratic, which I do not expect to happen, if we fail to implement the active Partnership & Cooperation Treaty and the Road Map, our footing in the talks with the EU will greatly weaken.

We will hold talks in new times, under new circumstances, but there will be no new gist, no new prospects," Roman Shpek stressed.

As Roman Shpek noted, Ukrainian politicians should part with their narrow partisan, clannish interests in favor of the nation's broad strategic course.

Ukraine must become a WTO full-fledged member, as well as a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which unite nations, accounting for 95 percent of global trade.

"Ukraine cannot count on its own development progress without joining these organisations," Roman Shpek pointed out.


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