By Tom Miles
GENEVA Dec 11 Ukraine's use of a legal loophole
to raise trade barriers around its car industry, livestock
farmers and other sectors met a barrage of criticism at the
World Trade Organization on Tuesday, as a deadline expired for
others to respond to its plan.
Kiev's bid to raise tariff ceilings on 371 goods had already
been condemned by trade superpowers such as the United States,
the European Union and China, with many diplomats describing it
as a potential threat to the entire world trading system.
But the opposition to the move was virtually uniform among
the 157 WTO members at a meeting of the WTO's General Council on
Tuesday, where countries from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific
regions joined in the condemnation, diplomats said.
"You had close to unanimity in terms of the membership
expressing extreme concern about what the Ukraine is doing. They
made a very brief response at the end which I don't think was
satisfactory in terms of giving anyone assurances," U.S.
Ambassador Michael Punke said as he left the meeting.
"The Japanese ambassador noted that there had been no
expressions of support for Ukraine's position and encouraged
anyone who supports the Ukraine to raise their flag, and no one
did," Punke said.
A WTO official who was present at the meeting said 31
speakers, representing about 127 countries, joined in the
criticism. Those who did not speak included India and Russia.
Many said they had met a 90-day deadline to respond to
Ukraine's plan, which it announced in a secret document in
But they said that by meeting the deadline, they were not
signalling any acceptance of the Ukrainian move.
Ukraine's representative told the WTO meeting that Ukraine
would start negotiating bilaterally with affected countries, and
although it was trying hard to comply with WTO rules but it was
not easy to do so in the current economic climate, when many
industrial countries were restricting trade.
The trade policy was deployed as Kiev struggled with
deepening economic problems and worsening relations with the
European Union, which has criticised Ukraine's handling of
elections and the jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia
But trade diplomats have said the bid to renegotiate tariffs
is just the latest in a line of eccentric and aggressive trade
policies from Kiev.
The WTO meeting singled Ukraine out for a second helping of
criticism when it reviewed the progress of new WTO membership
bids, since Kiev alone is still holding out against Yemen's
attempt to join the club, months after an apparent deal.
The WTO said in July that Ukraine had withdrawn its veto of
Yemen after a trio of senior ambassadors was called in and
Ukraine bowed to pressure from the rest of the membership.
But an official at the General Council meeting on Tuesday
said Ukraine was blamed for continuing to block Yemen from