Canada, Ukraine talk trade, Rus­sia

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Canada has reached a trade agree­ment with Ukraine that Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper says will help Ukraine build its econ­omy and es­tab­lish greater ties with the West.

The deal, which needs par­lia­men­tary ap­proval, would even­tu­ally see a near-elim­i­na­tion of du­ties on goods com­ing into Canada from Ukraine.

And it comes as the gov­ern­ment of Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko grap­ples with a pop­ulist move to wa­ter down eco­nomic changes de­manded by the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.

Harper an­nounced the free trade agree­ment as he met Tues­day with Ukraine’s prime min­is­ter, Arseniy Yat­senyuk, mak­ing clear that the deal was not just about cre­at­ing jobs, but also a sig­nal of Canada’s con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to aid Ukraine in its fight against Rus­sian-backed ag­gres­sion in eastern Ukraine.

“This is in­creas­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity for Cana­di­ans and Ukraini­ans,” Harper said as he stood along­side Yat­senyuk.

“It’s also, I think, a step to­wards help­ing Ukraini­ans re­al­ize the fu­ture that they want,” Harper added.

“Ukraini­ans do not want a fu­ture based on op­pres­sion and a Soviet past. The Ukrainian peo­ple want a western fu­ture, a fu­ture of pros­per­ity.”

Once in force, the agree­ment would elim­i­nate 99.9 per cent of tar­iffs on cur­rent im­ports from Ukraine into Canada, and 86 per cent of Ukrainian tar­iffs on Cana­dian prod­ucts in­clud­ing all tar­iffs on in­dus­trial goods, forestry and wood prod­ucts, fish and seafood prod­ucts.

Cana­dian pork pro­duc­ers would con­tinue to face trade bar­ri­ers but oth­ers, in­clud­ing grains and oil seeds ex­porters and beef pro­duc­ers, would gain un­hin­dered ac­cess to Ukraine’s mar­ket.

To­tal back-and-forth trade be­tween Canada and Ukraine av­er­aged $347 mil­lion be­tween 2011 and 2013, ac­cord­ing to Cana­dian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, but slowed to just $244 mil­lion last year as Ukraine dealt with po­lit­i­cal up­heaval and armed con­flict in south­ern and eastern parts of the coun­try.

Canada has also pro­vided Ukraine with $400 mil­lion in low­in­ter­est loans since a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis erupted there in 2013.

Be­yond its po­ten­tial eco­nomic value, though, the trade agree­ment ce­mented Canada’s in­volve­ment in help­ing Ukraine move away from Rus­sian in­flu­ence, Yat­senyuk said as he thanked Harper for his re­solve in achiev­ing the deal.

“You, to­gether with our in­ter­na­tional friends and part­ners, you are the flag­ship in sup­port­ing Ukraine in our quest and fight against the Rus­sian-led ter­ror­ists,” Yat­senyuk said be­fore the two men shook hands.

The agree­ment also comes just weeks ahead of a fall fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign in which Harper is ex­pected to draw heav­ily on his Con­ser­va­tive party’s sup­port for Ukraine as an in­di­ca­tion of how Canada un­der his lead­er­ship has stood up against Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s push to re­take ter­ri­tory lost in past con­flicts.

CP PHOTO

Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper meets with Ukrainian Prime Min­is­ter Arseniy Yat­senyuk at Will­son House in Chelsea, Que., Tues­day.

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