In a document marked "secret" sent to members of the WTOlast week and seen by Reuters, Ukraine says it intends to raise thelimit on the tariffs it can legally impose on more than 350 goods.Based on figures in the proposal, Kiev's plan would hit overallimports worth more than 4.6 billion USD last year.
The document, which diplomats said they had received on Sept.14, consists of 85 pages of annexes detailing the items affected.It says Ukraine is prepared "to enter into negotiations andconsultations" with WTO members for the concessions.
There was no response to requests for comment from Ukraineofficials in Geneva or Kiev. Ukraine, a relative newcomer to theWTO whose trade deficit widened by more than 50 percent last yearto 14 billion USD, has already threatened to block car imports andsaid last year it would act to improve its terms at the WTO.
The US said Ukraine's possible decision would raise "seriousconcerns," although WTO officials played down the move, which,though radical, is permissible under the agency's rules.
Some trade experts fear the plan, which would force hundreds oftrade deals to be renegotiated, could trigger increasinglyprotectionist policies worldwide. The four-year-old globalfinancial and economic crisis has so far not led to a rush toprotectionism, but under pressure to help their producers weatherthe storm, governments have pounced on "unfair" moves by theirrivals. The US and Brazil were the latest to trade diplomaticblows.
Some diplomats say Ukraine's plan to renegotiate on so manygoods - cars, trucks, agricultural machinery, meat, flowers, fruit,vegetables, washing machines and even syringes - is tantamount toreopening negotiations on its membership terms.
"We don't know what is behind Ukraine's move," one tradediplomat said. "Maybe the financial crisis. Maybe politicalreasons. Maybe industrial."
Longstanding WTO members typically have high ceilings and settariffs well below the maximum, giving them wriggle-room in toughtimes. The tariffs of newer members, many of which were forced toaccept tough terms to join the WTO, are often set right at theceiling. Some, including Ukraine, which joined in 2008, havebristled over that constraint.