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    Russian, Ukrainian economics ministers to discuss free trade

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    MOSCOW, August 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Sergei Teryokhin, in Kiev Thursday to discuss the development of free trade between the two countries, a ministry press release said.

    Among other related issues, Gref and Teryokhin are to consider a bilateral protocol on the removal of exemptions and artificial trade barriers and a comprehensive agreement on pipe supplies. Progress in Russia's and Ukraine's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), economic reintegration, mutual investments, and cooperation in aerospace and other high-tech industries will also be high on the ministers' agenda.

    According to the Russian Economics Ministry, Ukraine is Russia's biggest trade partner in the former Soviet Union. Trade turnover between the two countries saw a 26% growth in the first half of 2005, as compared with the same period last year, reaching $9.4 billion; bilateral exports increased by 25.9% to $6 billion and imports by 26.4% to $3.5 billion.

    The next round of talks on pipe trade will be held in Kiev during Gref's visit, August 18-19, Maxim Medvedkov, director of the Economics Ministry's trade negotiations department, told reporters.

    Medvedkov said the ministry was conducting an anti-dumping inquiry into the import of Ukrainian pipes to Russia. The inquiry, expected to be completed by November, may lead to the imposition of import quotas or protective duties. A Russian-Ukrainian pipe agreement was supposed to be signed at the end of 2004, but the sides have not yet been able to hammer out a mutually acceptable deal.

    Russia and Ukraine are also to discuss measures to optimize their trade regimes in the run-up to WTO accession, Medvedkov said.

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