No Ukraine WTO entry until late 2008 -government

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KIEV, Oct 29 (Reuters) Ukraine will not join the World Trade Organisation until late 2008 at the earliest, 15 years after it launched membership talks, the government said today.

President Viktor Yushchenko promised to secure WTO membership within a year of taking office in 2005 after the pro-Western ''Orange Revolution'', as part of measures to move Ukraine closer to the West. But the date has been repeatedly put back.

''In June 2008, Ukraine may complete the entire preparatory process of membership,'' the government said in a statement on its Web site. ''If at the beginning of Autumn, the (WTO) Council ratifies the agreement on Ukrainian membership, within 30 days Ukraine will become a member of the organisation.'' The statement, quoting Ukraine's representative at the WTO, Volodymyr Balutu, said a series of conditions first had to be met, including resolving a debt row with ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.

The Central Asian state has withheld its signature on a bilateral trade agreement pending resolution of what it says is a 27 million dollars debt dating from Soviet times.

The statement said Ukraine's delegation in Geneva, where the 151-member WTO is based, had ''secured recognition from Kyrgyzstan that its complaints against Ukraine are unfounded''.

Once that issue is resolved, a WTO working group could prepare documents setting Ukraine's obligations in terms of tariffs and market access and limiting farm subsidies.

''If Ukraine achieves an agreement with the WTO in March, its tariff obligations will then be confirmed. And the final draft could be readied for the end of April,'' the statement said. At least two months would then be needed to examine the draft.

Ukraine has been seeking WTO entry since 1993. Parliament passed a series of laws last year and again in May to comply with WTO rules.

The former Soviet state is awaiting formation of a coalition in parliament and government after an election in which ''Orange'' parties won a tiny majority.

Neighbouring Russia is the largest country still outside the global trade watchdog, which sets the rules for global commerce and provides a forum for the negotiation of multilateral trade pacts.

REUTERS SKB KN1810

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