Ukraine, unfortunately, still does not impress with improvements of  the investment climate. We cannot say that reforms and positive changes do not happen, but Ukraine is still among those countries investors do not hurry to  come to.

Many experts believe that creation of the free trade area with the European Union will become a good impetus for domestic business. Apart from selecting the strongest players on the market and improving the quality of goods and service, European rules will help to improve the legislation of th country, remove corruption and observe rights and freedoms of men.

In an interview with young but already successful woman, director of European Business Association Anna Derevyanko ForUm has learned about risks and advantages of the free trade area with the EU, investment attractiveness of Ukraine and competitive ability of domestic products.

-There are many talks about advantages of the European choice for Ukraine. How do you estimate possible signing of the Association agreement?

- The Association agreement will give a positive impetus, because business will finally understand what to try for. Moreover, this deal will improve the regulatory system for business to operate comfortably. 

- Do you agree that the agreement is advantageous for both Ukraine and the EU?

- Any contract between two parties provide for advantages for both. The question is how significant the advantages are for one and for another side.

- After the signing, the EU will have immediate access to Ukrainian market, while Ukraine will still have to prove that our products meet all the standards. Does it mean we have less advantageous position?

- Not quite. European business has been working in Ukraine for some time already and without any Association. Moreover, the companies working on Ukrainian market will become rivals to potential newcomers. The question is not about being a Ukrainian or European company, but about competitive abilities of all companies working in Ukraine.

Probably that at first the Association will give more privileges to EU countries. But on the other hand, Ukrainian entrepreneurs must understand that if they do not improve their competitive ability and do not implement technological innovations, they will never enter the international market.

- How ready is Ukraine to enter international markets?

- Well, Ukraine needs to learn to sell high-quality products, to earn money and to understand the new economic model. I would not be afraid of the Association agreement, and I cannot say that the agreement will affect Ukrainian economy. Do you remember there were talks that after entering WTO Ukrainian business would be suppressed. Well, now we are a member of WTO and keep working as before. In general, the free trade area agreement means that the EU trusts our country and it is a green light for other potential country-partners. However, many things depend on the authorities, which task is to make investors interested in coming in Ukraine. The Association agreement is a fishing rod the EU gives us, but catching a fish is our problem. In a long-term prospective we will receive advantages, including European values likes transparency of business, equal conditions, protection of human rights. If we play smart there will be a line of foreign companies wishing to work in Ukraine.

We also do not know our possibilities and limitations. Take Israel, for example, which land yields poorly. They know it and focus on science. With the help of high technology Israel has managed to stuff Ukrainian supermarkets with its products, and we buy these products because they are cheaper. Won't it be a paradox? Ukraine has rich lands, so why don't we use them as intended? It is better to be not just a granary for Europe, but a supermarket for everybody, don't you think?

Recently I had a meeting with Swedish businessmen, and they saw it as a positive moment that Ukraine does not provide for serious subsidies for the agricultural sector. No subsidies enable our production to be competitive while others sit on financial support. 

- Long-term prospective is a loose concept. May our entrepreneurs disappear for this period?

- Well ,our consumers will get high-quality products and this is a win. However, I want to remind that Ukrainian business does not feel very comfortable now, considering corruption, pressure, etc. Would not it be better to work by the rules even under tough competition? Moreover, don't think that key player of the EU will immediately come to us after the signing of the agreement. Let's agree that as of today Ukraine's image abroad is not that positive and we have to persuade investors to bring their money. 

Besides, I don't think we can hold back the stream of high-quality goods; they will keep coming even without free trade area. What is another way? To built a closed authoritarian economy? In the end, the agreement will bring transparency, equal conditions and free movement along the EU countries.  
- Do our authorities understand that they should help the business, not to obstruct?

-We are used to criticize only, and in the majority of case criticism is needed, but positive moments also should be seen.  

We think that nothing happens, that reforms go slowly and don't go at all. However, if look at the things from the outside, we will see how much has changed, and not only in Kyiv, but in other regions as well. I cannot say that the authorities do not do anything to improve the situation. The question is that the pace of changes must be more intense, only then we will be able to use of the advantages of favorable investment climate.

Even if the Association with the EU is signed, we still have work to do: to carry out the reform of the judiciary system, to liquidate corruption. Otherwise, there will only talks and no action.

- What is the major obstacle for investors wishing to work in Ukraine?

- European investors cannot defend their rights in Ukrainian courts and lose interest in investing in our economy. Our system has serious problems, like selective justice, corruption, ignoring of business rights, administrative pressure by state officials, poor management, etc.

- What EU companies may come to Ukraine first after the signing of the agreement?

- Well, lets say there are already many EU companies working in Ukraine, and they do not really need the free trade area. Duties and taxes and not the decisive factors for business to come or not come in a country. Anyway, speaking about new players, I think they will be agrarian business, infrastructure companies, power generation companies.

- Will financial sector change somehow? The parliament, for example, has given permission to international financial organizations to give loans in hryvnias, which is direct completion to Ukrainian banks...

- Fearing competition means to admit your weakness. I've already said  that closing economy won't do any good. Even if international financial sector has bigger possibilities, Ukrainian banks also can work hard to reduce risks, lower interest rates and develop crediting.

Olga Karetikova


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