Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A blow for WTO entry

This is old news but significant: The Rada failed to pass a law that would have updated Ukraine's intellectual property regime to make it more in line with what is required by the US, Europe and the WTO.

Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada (parliament) on Tuesday, May 31, 2005, once again voted down, by a narrow margin, a package of amendments to Ukraine's intellectual property rights laws that would have brought Ukraine into compliance with widely accepted international standards.

The amendments, if adopted, would have allowed the government of Ukraine to move forward to finalize the completion of several major international business and economic agreements including several with the United States and those needed for possible accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in late 2005.

Ukraine again failed to legally protect intellectual property rights, which many experts believe will jeopardize Ukraine's efforts to join WTO, its efforts to get rid of economic sanctions imposed by the United States, undermine its efforts to substantially increase its trade and investment levels and its program to improve the image of its overall business environment.

Several top U.S. government officials involved in economic and trade agreements indicated last week in Washington they were very disappointed in the parliament's failure to pass the needed amendments. They felt this action was a huge blow to Ukraine and do not see much chance now for Ukraine to meet the requirements needed for WTO membership by late 2005.

Reports from Kyiv indicate the Yushchenko/Tymoshenko government did not do an adequate job of informing parliament members about the international and domestic importance to Ukraine of passing the intellectual property rights amendments. Also a considerable number of Our Ukraine members in the parliament did not vote for the intellectual property rights amendments and several key Our Ukraine bloc members were not even in Kyiv the day the vote was taken. Passage of the amendments would have provided substantial benefits to Ukraine.

The failure of the Our Ukraine bloc in the Parliament to strongly support Ukraine's rapid movement towards major international economic and trade agreements has been alarming to many private business and government leaders around the world... Action Ukraine Report 5001, #1.

This has been a particular sore spot with the US and it may affect the removal of Jackson-Vannick, which is a great pity all by itself. But it will also affect Ukraine's entry into the WTO, another pity. It will delay it at the very least. Unless the government is cut some slack, it could also be taken as a lack of any serious commitment by Ukraine to meet the requirements for entry.

It is also some more evidence that the government does not look like it is altogether ready for prime time. I said in another posting that they need a Karl Rove. This was not to show my conservative credentials, though many in my extended family would dispute any conservative credentials. I said this because that is exactly what is needed. Someone has to bring some discipline to the government. They have to focus on what is at hand and work from the same page. If there is any legislation up that is important for the country, that is what the government has to work on at the time.

This was a golden opportunity to show not only the US that Ukraine is looking westward but, what many here think is more important, it was an opportunity to show Europe that Ukraine was looking west. And they did not get it done.

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