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Free trade with the European Union and the CIS countries is extremely important for Ukraine. This was stated by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, speaking at the opening of the IV International Black Sea Economic Forum, which opened on Oct. 24 in Yalta, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the Information-Analytical Bulletin of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine informs.
According to Azarov, the EU and the CIS are the main trading partners of Ukraine.
Experts say that in during the first 8 months of 2013, the volume of trade with the CIS countries reached 31.8 billion USD, which accounts for 35.5% of the total volume of Ukrainian foreign trade. The share of Ukrainian exports to the CIS countries exceeds 36% of total merchandise exports.
If we consider trade with the Customs Union only, from January to August 2013, it accounted for 13 billion USD of Ukrainian merchandise exports, or 31.6% of total exports. The share of imports from the Customs Union countries in the total imports is 34%, or 16.48 billion USD. The EU this year covers 26.8% of total exports of goods (based on data for January-August) and 37.3% of imports of goods. Thus, according to experts, the CIS countries and Europe now account for 62.8% of exports and 71.8% of imports.
Experts believe that a Free Trade Zone with CIS is of benefit, because these countries account for more than half of the Ukrainian exports of machine building sector. Also, according to the Free Trade Zone Agreement, from 2015, Ukraine will have access to gas and oil transportation systems. It is important for Ukraine, as it will be able to receive gas and oil from Central Asia using the pipeline system of Kazakhstan and Russia. This will help Ukraine continue to diversify its sources of energy.
At the same time, the EU Free Trade Zone is also important, experts stress, as in late November, Ukraine is signing the EU Association Agreement. Experts say the pact is important because Ukrainian legislation and technical standards are going to be adapted to the EU codes and standards. Successful implementation of the Association Agreement will mean compliance with the membership criteria. Consequently, it will help improve the quality of life of citizens, modernize state and society, enhance competitiveness of Ukrainian producers. It is this, not the membership in itself, is the real goal of European integration. The agreement will allow Ukraine to reach the level of development where further progress towards EU membership will be about political expediency, experts summarize.
The advantages of signing the Association Agreement should also include the fact that it will allow Ukraine to take more vigorous steps towards ensuring its energy security and diversification of energy resources, especially gas. Ukraine will have more arguments to join all processes related to the common energy policy in the EU.
According to Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the opportunity to free trade with the EU will help gradually improve the quality and efficiency of Ukrainian production, increase share of products with high added value in Ukrainian exports. Foreign trade with the CIS only may be a requirement of economic realities, but does not stimulate change, while trade with the EU is an investment in the future.
Today the trade with the CIS countries accounts for a larger share that that with the European Union. But at the same time, it is obvious that by adopting European standards, Ukraine could increase its exports opportunities for the CIS countries. Also, the products manufactured to the EU standards, will be more competitive on the markets of Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. In the next decade these markets will be of most interest to the Ukrainian producers. Those are markets with a growing population and income, experts stress.
Thus, according to experts, the most advantageous option for Ukraine is to sign Free Trade Agreements with as many countries as possible.