Karel De Gucht speaks at Georgia Tech on the benefits of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership for Georgia and the Southeast. 

As reported March 7 by Global Atlanta, the European Commission has proposed to cut tariffs on goods exported from Ukraine to into the 28-nation bloc by November. 

EU trade chief Karel De Gucht discussed the move during a Friday interview in Atlanta, telling Global Atlanta that he would work through the weekend and present the plan to the European Commission meeting Tuesday, during which details emerged about the plan.

The tariff cuts were to be part of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that made up the majority of an association agreement Ukraine was scheduled to sign with the EU in November. Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych rejected the overall agreement, setting off a firestorm of unrest that ended with his ouster. 

In the aftermath, Russian troops entered into the Ukrainian region of Crimea, which has declared independence and is planning to hold a referendum March 16 on whether to leave Ukraine for Russia. The international community has condemned the referendum.  

News reports quoted Mr. De Gucht as saying that tariff cuts would be implemented by November if Ukraine doesn’t change its trade policies toward the EU. 

Trade is central to the conflict in Crimea. Russia would like to see Ukraine tied into a customs union with Rusisa and former Soviet republics, while the EU would like to draw Ukraine more closely into its economic orbit.  

Mr. De Gucht told Global Atlanta fostering prosperity is the goal. 

“Ukraine and [EU member] Poland at the time that the Berlin Wall fell had about the same income per capita,” he said. “Now Poland has income per capita which is three times higher than in Ukraine, so now what we want to do is give Ukraine the opportunity to trade with us, be active in our markets – of course respecting our rules – because we believe that is the best way to develop that country.”

Read the initial story here. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...