Kiev will not trade WTO for Customs Union

Kiev has always stressed that WTO membership is its priority and it could only join the Customs Union if membership did not conflict with its obligations within the World Trade Organization
Ukraine cannot join the Customs Union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus as it is already a member of the World Trade Organization, says Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov.

­“If we joined the Customs Union, we would have to review all agreements with the WTO,” Azarov stated during a lecture at Kiev National University. “It is an absolutely unrealistic prospect.”

The Customs Union between the three former Soviet republics began its work in July after its members  ratified the Customs Code.

Previously, Ukraine expressed interest in joining or co-operating with the Customs Union, which is an open association. However, Kiev has always stressed that WTO membership is its priority and it could only join the Customs Union if membership did not conflict with its obligations within the World Trade Organization. 

Azarov noted that for his country, integration with Russia’s economy is still of great importance.

“As you know, I’ve been one of the initiators and convinced supporters of our countries’ economic integration, I took part in the talks and I was the first to talk about the Common Economic Space,” he told students.

At the same time, the head of the Ukrainian government outlined that they have “their stance which means the protection of Ukraine’s national interests:
“We have declared the policy of national pragmatism, so we’ll always stick to our principles but no doubt, we should seek compromise.” 

In his opinion the compromise lies in the 3+1 partnership formula with the Customs Union. This would imply signing selected agreements with the organization’s members while remaining part of the WTO. 

Ukraine sent Russia its proposal on the issue on July 8, in advance of a Customs Union meeting. After talks with the partners on July 15, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated that Ukraine’s accession to the Customs Union remained uncertain.