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Ukraine became the 152nd Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on May 16th, 2008. Its application was received by the Contracting Parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947) in December 1993, and a Working Party was established to conduct the negotiations for the terms of Ukraine's accession. As the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) approached in December 1994, Ukraine's GATT 1947 Working Party was transformed into a WTO Working Party. It met for the first time on February 27, 1995. Ukraine's first Working Party Chairman was Andrew Stoler, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mission to the WTO. Working Party deliberations included a close review of Ukraine's evolving trade regime, discussions on what changes would be necessary to remove trade barriers not allowed under WTO rules, and the negotiation of commitments on how Ukraine would implement the various WTO Agreements. In parallel, Ukraine conducted bilateral negotiations with over 50 interested WTO Members seeking to establish the terms of market access for their exports of goods and services to Ukraine.
Throughout the Working Party discussions and negotiation, Ukraine made it clear that it intended to utilize the accession process to reform its trade practices and liberalize access to its domestic market for imported goods and services, and at the same time make WTO provisions the framework for its economic reform and revitalization. Ukraine's strong support for completing the accession did not waiver through several changes in governments during the accession negotiations. After nearly thirteen years of effort, the Working Party adopted Ukraine's accession package in January 2008, and on February 5, 2008, the General Counsel approved it. President Yushchenko came from Kyiv to personally sign Ukraine's Protocol of Accession.
Ukraine's efforts to accede to the WTO were supported by technical assistance from the United States, including a resident WTO advisor throughout most of the process and numerous short-term assignments, e.g., in customs issues, intellectual property rights protection, agriculture, and SPS. The United Kingdom and the European Union also provided technical advice and assistance.
Results of the Negotiations
Ukraine established relatively low tariffs on most imported goods, including the Information Technology Agreement granting duty free access for electronics and telecommunications equipment. It also adopted most of the industrial sectoral tariff agreements also binding low-to-zero tariffs on a long list of products, including chemicals, agricultural machinery, medical equipment, scientific equipment, and construction equipment. Ukraine also confirmed broad access to its services market in all the key sectors, with few limitations on foreign equity, economic needs tests or other common limitations found in GATS schedules. The high quality and extensive scope of these commitments demonstrate Ukraine's commitment to thoroughgoing liberalization, as part of a broader strategy for economic development through trade and investment.
The majority of Ukraine's commitments, for market access as well as for the implementation of WTO rules, were adopted prior to completion of the negotiations. In only a handful of cases, full implementation of WTO rules occurred upon accession. There were no transitions taken affecting WTO rules and very few staging periods to full implementation for market access commitments. Ukraine also eliminated all prohibited agricultural subsidies and agreed to limits to trade-distorting agricultural supports that reflected current expenditures.
Ukraine substantially revised the legal basis for its trade regime during the negotiations, amending or enacting legislation in the areas of customs procedures (including valuation, fees, and rules of origin), import licensing and quantitative restrictions, the application of technical barriers to trade to imports; and domestic taxation. Ukraine also gave assurances that the right to import and export would not be impaired (trading rights), and that prohibited industrial subsidies and trade-related investment measures (TRIMS) would be eliminated from the date of accession. Bringing Ukraine's restrictive sanitary and phytosanitary regime and its import certification system into conformity with WTO rules was a priority objective for the United States in the negotiations. U.S. efforts were also focused on ensuring that Ukraine would enforce intellectual property rights protection consistent with the TRIPS Agreement, including protection of undisclosed information for pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals. Ukraine's commitments and legislative changes dealt with both issues. Ukraine also has committed to enhanced transparency for laws and regulations affecting trade, and confirmed that it will provide comprehensive publication for comment prior to implementation for all trade-related regulations within two years of its accession. Ukraine confirmed its intention to establish a dedicated journal or website for this purpose. Ukraine also confirmed that its still-numerous state-owned and state controlled enterprises will make purchases and sales in international trade of goods and services based on commercial considerations. Ukraine committed that it would initiate negotiations to join the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and will join the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft (ATCA).