September 26, 2012 / 9:07 AM / 5 years ago

U.S. says Ukraine tariff plans may impact WTO system

GENEVA (Reuters) - Ukraine’s announcement that it intends to raise hundreds of tariff ceilings may have an impact on the global trading system, the U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization said on Wednesday.

The move has raised fears that Ukraine has found a way to get around a fundamental check on protectionism that was put into place when the WTO was created in 1995.

“We are very concerned about the systemic implications of what Ukraine is contemplating, and I would say that there’s a broad diversity of WTO members that are concerned about what Ukraine is contemplating,” Michael Punke told reporters in Geneva.

“To give you an example of how broad that diversity is, this is an issue where I anticipate we’ll be working very closely with countries like Brazil to address our concerns. I think many members seem to be concerned about the actions that Ukraine seems to be contemplating and have lots of concerns about it.”

Ukraine notified the other 156 members of the WTO in a document earlier this month that it intended to raise the ceilings on more than 350 tariffs.

If other countries were to do the same, the system of legally binding tariff ceilings could unravel, some trade diplomats and lawyers have said.

A U.S. official previously said the United States had “serious concerns and questions” about the plan, which uses a loophole in the rules and, according to some experts, is tantamount to renegotiating its membership of the WTO.

Reporting by Tom Miles; edited by Diana Abdallah and Jane Baird

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