Statement of the U.S. Representative at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Ukraine
April 19, 2016
*For the Record*
Since its accession, Ukraine has faced a number of major challenges, including an economic crisis, armed aggression from combined separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, and geopolitical pressures. As a direct result, Ukraine’s economy and its population continue to struggle. Nevertheless, the spirit that inspired the Revolution of Dignity remains strong in Ukraine and the U.S. government is committed to helping Ukraine recover and return to a path of steady and robust growth.
The work of the WTO can help: The WTO provides a forum in which Ukraine can challenge trade restrictive measures and rely on the rule of law.
Ukraine’s WTO accession in 2008 introduced significant market-liberalizing reforms, and spurred its migration from a centrally-planned economy toward a market-driven economy. Ukraine’s ongoing commitment to that journey is evidenced by its work to root out corruption and reform virtually the entire way business is done in Ukraine. The importance of these reforms in ensuring that Ukraine does not return to the “bad old ways” cannot be underestimated. Ukraine has also been driven by its desire to integrate itself with Europe. The United States supports Ukraine’s EU integration agenda, as implemented consistent with Ukraine’s WTO obligations.
Increased trade and investment are key to Ukraine’s recovery, and Ukraine is creating incentives for both to flourish. The President of Ukraine just signed the legislation to implement the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, giving Ukraine access to nearly two trillion dollars in government procurement opportunities. Similarly, Ukraine’s implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement can reduce the cost of exporting (and importing) and further encourage foreign trade. We would also urge Ukraine to participate in the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, and thereby expand access to the information and communications technology products your industries require, at lower cost.
The United States commends the significant reforms undertaken by the government of Ukraine, but there is much more work to be done. For example, transparency is a consistent theme throughout the written questions submitted by the United States in the context of this TPR. As Ukraine institutes reforms, adopts new rules, and pursues privatization of state-owned companies, it will be critical that these processes are open and transparent. Transparency is an important tool against the corruption that has undercut Ukraine’s success in the past, and will be critical in building the country’s credibility with foreign investors as well as with Ukraine’s own citizens and businesses.
Transparency is also critical as Ukraine aligns its regulatory regime with that of the EU. The Secretariat’s Report notes that Ukraine has already harmonized many of its national technical standards with international or EU standards. The United States anticipates that Ukraine will fulfill its obligations under the WTO TBT Agreement to base its national standards on international standards developed through open and transparent processes. Similarly, as Ukraine moves to align its SPS legislation with the EU acquis, we expect Ukraine to look first to international standards as the basis for its national standards, as required under the WTO SPS Agreement. Further, we are interested to hear about the consultation process Ukraine will undertake with stakeholders, both domestic and foreign, as it develops and adopts new TBT and SPS standards. Those consultations should be open, inclusive, and transparent to ensure that Ukraine is adopting globally-relevant standards.
Another area in which transparency could be improved and used to fight corruption is customs. U.S. businesses have historically encountered problems with customs valuation, and in particular the use of reference or indicative prices. We look forward to a discussion of how Ukraine will ensure that WTO consistent procedures are followed in this area.
Both the Secretariat’s and the Government’s Report acknowledge challenges in the area of the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. We look forward to hearing from Ukraine about how it plans to address these issues. In particular, we are interested in recent amendments affording copyright and related rights.
The United States understands Ukraine’s need to increase domestic production and expand exports. However, we would like more information about some of the programs. For example, the Secretariat’s Report describes a program that supports the inclusion of local components in the electrical power sector as well as some export promotion programs and export controls in the agriculture sector about which the United States has questions. We look forward to hearing more about these programs and how Ukraine ensures that they are WTO consistent. In closing, Chair, I would like to reiterate my government’s support for Ukraine’s reform efforts in the face of extreme pressure on multiple fronts. We believe that its continued adherence to the rules and principles of the WTO, and its continued move toward integration with the EU, will bring Ukraine a brighter future. We hope that this discussion today will encourage Ukraine’s continuation of those policies and we look forward to continuing our work with Ukraine to achieve those goals.