Ukraine has become the third country to ratify a free trade area agreement with former Soviet countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The vote in the parliament in Kiev comes nine months after the accord was signed in St Petersburg. Russia and Belarus are the other two nations to have ratified it.
The Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said:
“As soon as the agreement comes into force, trade between Ukraine and countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States is expected to increase by 35%. This will boost growth.”
Ukraine is looking to benefit from access to other countries’ markets for its products and sees the agreement as a way of maintaining cooperation within the CIS.
But some experts cast doubt on the economic benefits of the accord.
“Ukraine has signed a deal which creates what I’d call a restriction zone with the elements of free trade, rather than a free trade area. The list of restrictions on free trade for Ukraine actually takes up several pages of the document – covering both imports and exports,” said Vasyl Yurchyshyn, an economist at the Razumkov Centre.
Under the agreement any trade disputes will be dealt with in a Russian court, where it is thought Ukraine would have less chance of winning.
The accord does not affect the country’s plans to create a free trade agreement with the European Union.