Ukraine Accepted Into WTO

KIEV -- Ukraine on Tuesday won permission to join the World Trade Organization after a 15-year battle to speed up economic growth, improve living standards and set up a free-trade area with the European Union.

WTO members approved the accession agreement Tuesday. Ukraine now has until July 4 to ratify the accord and will become a WTO member 30 days after that.

Ukraine is counting on WTO membership to open new markets and give a boost to its $106 billion economy. The country has failed to win entry until now because of clashes among the president, the government and lawmakers.

"We have difficult homework to do," Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told reporters in Geneva. "This starts the colossal integration work that lies ahead." Membership means "better living standards, higher wages, improved social standards and economic life."

The WTO sets global rules to ease commerce among members and acts as an arbitrator in settling trade disputes. The organization is struggling to break a deadlock in talks on a broad treaty to eliminate more trade barriers and is now targeting a deal next year.

"Lower tariff barriers associated with membership will be a crucial part of Ukraine's sustained economic success," said Scott Licamele, a vice president at Renaissance Capital in Kiev. Accession to the WTO is also "an important step toward closer ties with the European Union."