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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine Signs Bilateral Agreement With U.S.

KIEV -- Ukraine's government has signed a bilateral protocol with the United States in a key step to help the country's talks aimed at winning membership of the World Trade Organization, officials said Tuesday.

President Viktor Yushchenko praised the accord and Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov congratulated the government on what will serve to boost Yushchenko and his team ahead of a parliamentary poll on March 26.

"It is a decisive victory achieved during talks over the last few weeks," Yushchenko told UT 1 state television channel.

Yushchenko's team faces its first public test in the March parliamentary elections since taking power after the Orange Revolution in 2004.

Economy Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who signed the protocol in Washington on Monday, said in a statement that the agreement meant "a start of a new era in bilateral economic and trading relations and paves the way for WTO membership."

Ukrainian authorities have been holding talks with the WTO for more than a decade.

Yushchenko has described WTO entry as critical for the country's export-led economy.

He had set membership in the global trade body as a key point in his first year of office, but his government failed to win support in parliament for all enabling legislation.

Officials said the government still needed to complete negotiations with seven key WTO members, saying the most difficult talks would be with Australia.