WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has signed an agreement to boost trade and investment ties with Ukraine, which is on the verge of joining the World Trade Organization this year after a lengthy period of economic reform, U.S. trade officials said on Tuesday.
“Ukraine is making important strides to modernize its economy and attract foreign trade and investment,” U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a statement. “The agreement ... will assist Ukraine’s efforts to expand its economy and diversify its markets.”
The new Trade and Investment Cooperation Agreement was announced while President George W. Bush was in Kiev. Bush later left to attend a NATO summit in Romania.
The agreement was signed by Schwab in Washington and Ukraine’s Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn in Kiev. It creates a forum to discuss ways to boost two-way trade, which totaled about $2.56 billion last year, to encourage stronger bilateral investment flows.
Ukraine is set to beat its bigger neighbor, Russia, into the WTO, which came into existence about four years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
WTO members voted in February to approve the terms of Kiev’s entry into the world trade body. Ukraine will become a WTO member 30 days after its parliament ratifies the accession agreement, which is expected by July 4, the U.S. trade representative’s office said.
Russia has hoped to finish its long-time bid to join the WTO this year. However, U.S. officials say they are still waiting for Moscow to fulfill commitments it made in 2006 to improve protection of U.S. intellectual property rights.
The European Union also has not given final approval to Russia’s application to join the WTO.
Bush will meet on Sunday with outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin at Putin’s Black Sea residence.
The leaders are expected to sign a document outlining the framework for strategic relations between the two countries.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have been strained over issues including U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Europe and NATO moves to bring ex-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia closer to the alliance.
Two-way trade between the United States and Russia totaled about $26.7 billion in 2007, or about 10 times the level of U.S.-Ukraine trade.
Writing and reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Bill Trott