UK govt hails new digital trade agreement with Ukraine

Thursday, Dec 01, 2022

LONDON: Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch is to sign a new digital trade agreement with Ukraine, which is being hailed by the Government as guaranteeing the war-torn country access to UK financial services as it seeks to rebuild its shattered economy.

The deal comes after First Lady Olena Zelenska used a visit to Parliament on Tuesday to call for British support for a special tribunal to prosecute Russian aggression against Ukraine, as she told MPs and peers of the war crimes Russia is alleged to have carried out across her country.

Senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said on Wednesday that the UK should “absolutely honour” Ms Zelenska’s request, which came as she addressed an audience of MPs and peers that included Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer.

Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister, Yulia Svyrydenko, will sign the trade agreement with Ms Badenoch on Wednesday, with officials saying that the deal – based on a similar agreement earlier this year between the UK and Singapore – will support digital commerce through the facilitation of cross-border data flows.

It follows an approach by the government in Kyiv over the summer to see if such an agreement would be possible. Digital trade is considered to be particularly important in the current conflict with Russia, with the fighting and damage to infrastructure making physical trade more difficult.

The agreement also allows for greater co-operation between the UK and Ukraine on cybersecurity and emerging technologies.

Ms Badenoch said: “The landmark digital trade deal agreed today between our two countries paves the way for a new era of modern trade between us.

“This agreement will mean our businesses and governments can collaborate even more and ensure Ukrainians have access to essential goods and services digital trade opens up.

“This will help protect jobs, livelihoods and families now and in Ukraine’s post-war future.” Shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds welcomed the agreement. “The Government must ensure they maintain maximum pressure on Russia and provide all possible support to Ukraine, including by helping businesses trying to make this deal work,” the Labour MP said.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Ms Zelenska appealed to parliamentarians to help deliver “justice” for Ukraine, currently facing a long winter as troops continue to hold out against the Russian invasion.

Mr Ellwood, who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, told Sky News: “I think we should absolutely honour the request by the First Lady of Ukraine. “It’s something Britain has done in the past in places like Rwanda and indeed Bosnia and absolutely needs to happen here again.

“This isn’t just about defeating Russia on the battlefield – it’s making sure that any individual soldiers that are performing these absolute horrendous atrocities are held to account.” He continued: “We are also a trusted and fair nation, our judicial process is well respected. But ultimately we have experience and I think this is something we can do.

“We’ve invested more into Ukraine, arguably than any other European nation, in their hour of need, and I think this is another example of where Britain can lead from the front again.”