Ukraine's accession to the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union would expedite the creation of a free-trade zone with the EU and help ensure global food security, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said on Thursday, RIA Novosti reported.

"We act on the assumption that these formats are not in conflict with each other, while Ukraine's possible participation in the Customs Union could even accelerate the creation of a free trade zone with the European Union," he said at a joint briefing with his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Klyuyev.

There are also wide-ranging prospects in agriculture, he added.

"This could eventually become a nucleus in ensuring food security in the world. Together, our countries will be a powerful player on the food market," he said.

The Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan materialized in early July 2010, when the countries ratified the Customs Code. Customs borders are to be scrapped on July 1, 2011.

The creation of a common economic space with the free movement of goods, services and labor is billed as the next stage of their integration.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Klyuyev was noncommittal, saying there were "plenty of integration projects that we have already discussed."

In 2009, Ukraine urged Russia and Kazakhstan to revisit the idea of creating a Black Sea grain pool, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.


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