Will the Ukraine Beat Russia to WTO Membership?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/03/2008 10:01:00 PM
It certainly looks likely. From the somewhat nefarious Soviet-era ITAS-TASS news agency:
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vladimir Ogryzko claimed that a meeting of the general council of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on February 5 “will be the final point for Ukraine’s accession to this global club”. He expressed this idea on Thursday at the general information meeting of the European Business Association.

“Ukraine should become a WTO member already in one week’s time,” the minister stated. “Appropriate juridical procedures are planned for February 5, and we hope that this will take place without any changes.” According to the minister, “the Ukrainian president’s visit to Geneva is planned in this context. During the visit, final documents, providing for Ukraine’s membership of the WTO, are to be signed.

“February 5 should be the final day which will complete the years-long process of Ukraine’s accession to this organisation. This will help Ukraine to rise to a level of countries, having civilised relations,” Ogryzko contended. At the same time, according to the minister, Ukraine “should improve some things in legislation and there are some things which are in need of specifications”.

On Wednesday, speaking at the All-Ukrainian forum “Power and business are partners”, President Viktor Yushchenko expressed confidence that on February 5, Ukraine will become a WTO member. “I’m sure nearly 100 percent that we shall be in the WTO on February 5,” Yushchenko said.

Last week, the committee on WTO expansion accepted Ukraine’s application for joining the organisation. Following the signing of an agreement on joining the WTO, Ukraine will have to ratify requirements by July 4, necessary for accession to the WTO. Then, 30 days later, Ukraine will be officially a member of the World Trade Organisation.

Ukrainian leaders see it as a way to get Russia to "behave" itself better as Ukrainian membership will mean that it has leverage over the terms of Russia's WTO accession. From Agence France Presse:
Ukraine's expected membership of the WTO will give the country leverage in trade disputes with neighboring Russia, President Viktor Yushchenko told AFP in an interview on Thursday.

The pro-Western leader said that membership of the World Trade Organization would allow Ukraine to negotiate with Russia over "restrictions" imposed on Ukrainian exports worth up to $3 billion.

"Considering Russia's own aspirations to join the WTO, we will have interesting negotiations" on thorny issues such as Russian antidumping duties, Yushchenko said.

Members of the 151-nation global trade body have the right to demand bilateral agreements with aspirant members that can be used to extract trade concessions.

Russia had planned to join the WTO this year but has continually set back its deadline for joining. Ukraine, which submitted its membership in 1993, is the biggest country besides Iran and Russia outside the WTO.

In response, Russia is accusing the Ukraine of taking on less-than-favorable conditions for entry into the WTO to gain an advantage over Russia at the expense of domestic economic stability. Translation: the Ukraine is the West's lackey according to Russia. This is what you get when you mix geopolitics and trade:
Ukraine may join the WTO on unfavorable terms just to beat Russia to it and gain advantage, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Saturday, adding that Russia would only take an offer that guarantees its economic stability.
"On the wave of its political relations with the West, Ukraine will most likely join (the WTO) on unfavorable terms just to join ahead of Russia and get some advantage, so I am afraid some Ukrainian industries will be in a unfavorable position," he told the First television channel.