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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiev Sees Silver Lining on WTO

APClinton and Schr?der sharing a laugh during a conference in Yalta on Friday.
YALTA, Ukraine -- Ukraine should learn its lesson from its protracted talks to join the WTO to strike a better deal on free trade with the European Union, a top aide to President Viktor Yushchenko said Saturday.

Oleksander Chaly, deputy presidential chief of staff, said Ukraine had wasted a great deal of time in negotiations with the World Trade Organization, largely because the country's business elite had not been involved.

"A lot of experts think we accepted some commitments, some obligations, which possibly could have been avoided had we worked in a more effective way," Chaly said on the sidelines of a conference attended by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der in Yalta.

Ukraine, he said, could have lobbied for better conditions for its agriculture and steel industries, both key contributors to the economy and foreign currency earners.

The two sectors will again be difficult issues when Ukraine begins talks on a new cooperation agreement with the EU, once WTO accession is complete.

"It is now time, first of all, for Ukrainian business to invest in these negotiations through ... reports and providing experts positions," Chaly said during the conference of the Yalta European Strategy think tank.

"In the EU, these mechanisms are very, very effective. You have to define what your challenges are. Tell us what we have to ask from the EU in a future trade agreement because the EU is very clear on what it wants from Ukraine."

He said the best-case scenario was to start talks next year.

"When we start negotiating concrete articles, I am sure we will find some difficulties in finding a proper balance," he said.

Another top presidential official said in June that Ukraine's WTO talks could hit a further obstacle over the government's imposition of stiff grain-export quotas in response to a poor harvest.

Officials predict long talks with the EU -- once they get under way -- with Ukraine needing first to end political instability and resolve constitutional disputes.

Ukraine has been negotiating its entry to the WTO since 1993, and officials say they hope it will become a member by the end of the year. Yushchenko made WTO membership within a year of taking office in 2005 the first of a series of promises to integrate Ukraine into Europe. He sees membership of NATO and the EU as key goals.