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Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2003

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If he will make a statement on the effect of EU tariffs on Ukraine. [111594]

Tariffs on Ukrainian exports to the European Union benefit from most favoured nation treatment. That means that Ukraine is treated as though it were already a member of the World Trade Organisation.

I thank the Minister for his reply. There are serious concerns about possible arms exports from Ukraine to Iraq, allegations of money laundering and the murder of prominent journalists. If Ukraine is to be led along a path towards internationally accepted norms, does he agree that nothing should be done to make it more difficult for it to trade with its neighbours following the accession of the Baltic states to the European Union?

The hon. Gentleman is right, and I raised those points in a recent meeting with State Secretary Chalyi of Kiev, who is responsible for European affairs. Enlargement will be a big opportunity for Ukraine, giving it access to an expanded single market, and, overall, Ukraine's trade with its new EU neighbours should increase as enlargement generates greater wealth in those countries. We have what is called an active new neighbours policy, working constructively with the Kiev Government to try to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union.

I was very interested in that reply. The Minister in turn may be interested to hear that only last week I returned from a trip to Ukraine organised by Peterborough city council—my Peterborough constituency is twinned with the city of Vinnitsa. Members of our delegation were left in no doubt that Ukraine is extremely eager to become a member of the European Union. Will the Minister tell us how the UK Government may assist with that, especially in relation to developing trade links?

I congratulate my hon. Friend and, indeed, the city of Peterborough on those links. It is important that we look beyond the current enlargement of 10 new EU member states to the new neighbours who were all present, including President Kuchma of Ukraine, in Athens for the European conference—an idea initiated by Her Majesty's Government. We will work constructively with the Ukrainian Government to try to bring them closer to their ultimate ambition of membership of the European Union.

Mr. Speaker, you will remember the welcome visit that you kindly hosted only last week of the President of the Rada and other distinguished parliamentary colleagues. Will Her Majesty's Government follow up that excellent initiative with an intensification of the already good relations with Ukraine, an expression of thanks for Ukraine's participation in the coalition of the willing in the recent Iraq crisis—a courageous initiative on its part—and a determination to help Ukrainian agriculture, which has always been the backbone of Ukraine's economy?

We noted Ukraine's deployment of a nuclear, biological and chemical clean-up battalion to Kuwait earlier this month. The hon. Gentleman is correct to draw attention to the welcome commitment of the Ukrainian Government to the conflict to get rid of Saddam Hussein. We are now in discussion with Ukraine about how it might further assist the coalition. The question of Ukrainian agriculture, like the broad problem of agriculture in the whole of Europe, must be set in the context of the need to reform the common agricultural policy.