The United States and Ukraine have concluded bilateral negotiations on market-access issues, another step toward Ukraine’s goal of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), U.S. officials said March 1.

The two countries plan formally to sign an agreement March 6 in Washington, USINFO reports.

“This agreement marks a milestone for both countries in our bilateral trade relations,” U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said in a news release.

“It confirms Ukraine’s commitment to broad-based reform and economic liberalization. It also demonstrates Ukraine's resolve to join the international trading system,” he said.

In January, Portman announced that the United States was reinstating trade benefits that Ukraine lost in 2001 for failing to protect intellectual property rights, particularly computer software and films and music recorded on compact discs and digital versatile discs.

As a result of the agreement on market-access issues announced March 1, Portman said Ukraine and the United States should expect greater cooperation on economic issues “and a strong boost to Ukraine’s efforts to complete the [WTO] accession negotiations.”

The United States is continuing to work with other WTO candidates, including Russia and Vietnam, and hopes to conclude bilateral agreements “in the near future,” Portman’s office said in the news release.

The World Trade Organization is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations, according to the WTO Web site. As of late December 2005, some 149 nations were members. At the organization’s heart are WTO agreements negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their legislatures. The goal is to allow producers of goods and services -- as well as importers and exporters – to conduct cross-border business.

Ukraine has been negotiating its terms for joining the WTO since 1994, when the Ukrainian government first started talks with WTO’s predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT).

Ukraine still is negotiating bilateral market-access agreements with eight other countries, Portman’s office said. To complete its accession bid, Ukraine must complete those bilateral negotiations as well as multilateral negotiations for a package of WTO documents known as the Working Party Report and the Protocol of Accession.

Ukraine’s government is also still in the process of enacting legislation that would enable it to implement WTO provisions after it becomes a WTO member.


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