Since August 1, a free trade agreement between Ukraine and Canada started working. What does this give Ukrainian business?
— We have cleared the lion’s share of barriers to business in the Canadian direction. If you sew a shirt in Chernivtsi or grow nuts in the Dnipro, then you can sell these goods to Canada without customs duties. But this agreement means much more — both the protection of intellectual property and access to tenders. That is a very good signal for business in Ukraine and Canada. It offers new opportunities. Speakers, diplomats and politicians have done a lot for you to work freely.
Does that mean any of the Ukrainian entrepreneurs can deliver products to Canada freely? Are there any restrictions?
— For Ukrainian goods, customs duties were canceled for almost 98 percent of the names. There are quite a few exceptions. That is, your own products and goods can be freely transported for sale to Canada. The cancellation of customs duties is an economy for business. This way Ukrainian goods become more competitive. The agreement allows our companies to enter the public procurement market of Canada, to participate in tenders. Canadian companies can also participate in tenders in Ukraine. In aviation, there is a concept where the aircrafts are recognized by the “friend-or-foe” signal. It seems to me, this deal is a good signal “friend” regarding the Ukrainian market for international companies: “Look at Ukraine — there you can invest money, create job, earn money.”
What products from Ukraine are interesting for Canada?
— There are five potential markets. These are clothing, footwear, IT services, furniture, confectionery. These are the results of a recent study of the Canadian-Ukrainian CUTIS project. These are the markets that will stand to gain from the free trade agreement. This list is final. Agriculture, IT and light industry are the segments where we have something to offer. We have specialists and opportunities. I appeal to all entrepreneurs who are looking for market outlet abroad — study the terms of the agreement and work.
And in what way is Ukraine interesting for Canadian business?
— Ukraine is interesting for them as well as Canada is for us. Our over 40 million consumers are attractive to any business. In 2016, Ukraine became the fourth largest purchaser of Canadian fish and seafood in the world. We are not inclined to think of ourselves as a nation that consumes a lot of import. But it turns out to be so. Therefore, they have an interest in our market. We are also a country of highly skilled labour. Ukraine has the highest level of writing system in Europe. Each year we release 14 thousand IT specialists. And at this time, while we are speaking, big Canadian companies order software writing at our IT companies. This is not a theory, not abstract things, but potential ones.
Canada was one of the first to condemn military aggression of Russia in Donbas and was helping a lot in the midst of hostilities, and is assisting now.
— The Canadian military training mission UNIFIER has already been operating in Ukraine for the third year. These are 200 of their specialists who train our military officers. 150 of them work on the Yavorivsky landfill and another 50 ones — in the mining centre in Kamianets-Podilsky. But the Canadians learn military affairs from us. No army in the world knows what a trench war is. They read about it in books and watch movies. And for our fighters this is a daily reality. Plus modern methods of radio-electronic warfare, the latest Russian weapons, which our army opposes. We pay a huge terrible price for this experience. I have named only one of the Canadian help directions for us. There are many others. Why do they do it? Canada has a powerful Ukrainian community. This is a million three hundred thousand Canadians of Ukrainian descent. It seems to me that the government also relies on them in making decisions. But it is not just in the Ukrainian community. Canada is a country of value. Values and principles are the basis of the state policy here. They do not need to have the situation in our East explained. They are well aware – everybody must adhere to international rules. By supporting us, Canada is helping the whole free world.
Canadian doctors also help. They not once came to Ukraine to treat our wounded fighters.
— This is a very touching initiative of the Ukrainian community in Canada. The program is still valid today. This time the mission was assembled by the legendary Toronto doctor Oleh Antonyshyn. He, together with the same enthusiasts, has already carried out six missions to Ukraine. The mission concerned in several areas – prosthetics, plastic surgery. They decided — they could do much more while coming to Ukraine. The story of the Ukrainian boy Mykola Nyzhnykivsky has shaken the world. He was blown up by a grenade — he lost his arm and both legs. At first, Ukrainian specialists fought for his life, then — Canadian doctors. He was supported by Justin Trudo, the Prime Minister of Canada. Here, both our community and the Canadians, who are not of Ukrainian descent, also support Ukraine. We really appreciate this help.
Russia is constantly pressing and criticizing such support. How do you oppose Moscow propaganda in Canada?
— There are no sentiments about Russia and Putin. Canada has consistent support in favour of Ukraine. Military aid was started by a conservative government, now it is continued by a liberal government. The Canadian parliament unanimously voted for an agreement on free trade with Ukraine. My friends said such voting could be counted on the fingers of one hand. This is a truly consolidated state position. The Russians are trying to shake the situation here. But the Canadians have immunity against this. And we also strike back. We share experience in the fight against Russian propaganda.
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada Christine Freeland has recently made a statement on positive changes in reforms in Ukraine. Which reforms are highly appreciated by the Canadians?
— The Canadian government officials see the same thing as we do — there are big changes in Ukraine. Yes, it is slower than we would like to. We cannot ignore these transformations. But we should not comfort ourselves by what was done. We need to work further. Canada knows about our strengths and weaknesses. Although they believe — we can work better and clear more height. And we are trying to conduct such an honest conversation.
What are the main challenges facing Ukraine now?
— We must believe in ourselves. During three years after the Maidan, after the Revolution, many were ready to throw in the towel. Nothing will be changed by cavalry onslaught. Time, patience and perseverance are needed. The world counts on us. We underestimate it yet.