The World Trade Organization agreed Friday to accept Ukraine as a member, giving President Viktor Yushchenko a new sales pitch as he sought out more foreign investment while at the World Economic Forum.
Membership will open new market opportunities for Ukraine's industrial exports, and comes amid growing worries about the world that the current economic uncertainty could lead to increased protectionism.
WTO membership will require the former Soviet republic to continue economic reforms aimed at bringing Ukraine closer to the European Union, which it has aims of ultimately joining. Yushchenko also has hopes of steering the country into the European Union and NATO.
Yushchenko said joining the trade body might help improve Ukraine's troubled trade relations with Russia, which also aspires to WTO membership but still has numerous issues to resolve.
"I think we will soon begin consultations with the goal of optimizing our relations in the context of the rules, traditions and position of the WTO," he said.
Yushchenko, who travels to Moscow on Feb. 12 for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said it was important for Russia to join the Geneva-based group that sets the rules for global trade.
"This will harmonize our relations," he told international investors during a lunchtime speech.
In making the case for investing in Ukraine, he cited its 7.3 percent growth last year and commitment to democracy, which he called the key to economic and political stability.
The WTO's 151-member general council will formally invite Ukraine to join Feb. 5, after which the country would have to sign a membership treaty. It would officially become the body's 152nd member a month later.
By joining first, Ukraine effectively will get a veto over Russian membership since all WTO decisions are made by consensus. But, as Yushchenko's remarks indicated, Ukraine may have an interest in seeing Russia bound by the same trade rules.
Russia, the only major economy still outside the WTO, has been trying to enter since 1993.
Turkmenistan scoffs at Ukraine's proposal for new gas pipeline
Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday scoffed at Ukraine's proposal to build a new pipeline that would carry Turkmen natural gas to European markets, saying other nations should consult it before making such statements.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said on her trip to Brussels this week that her country could serve as a transit point for a pipeline that would deliver Turkmen and other Central Asian gas to European nations. She said the pipeline, the White Stream, could cross the Caspian and the Black Sea.