Crikey | 9 June 2022
Ukraine envoy seeks Australian free trade
by Dominic Giannini, AAP
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia is seeking to meet with Albanese government ministers to discuss trade and aid opportunities after returning from the war-torn country.
Vasyl Myroshnychenko has returned to Australia after an eight-day trip to Ukraine where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s top advisors, the prime minister, the defence minister and military officials.
Mr Myroshnychenko has called for a free trade agreement between Australia and Ukraine, and says while it will likely play a largely symbolic role, it will be important to encourage private and public investment in his country to help with its recovery.
The ambassador is seeking to brief Australian ministers on the current situation with Ukraine and ask for more lethal aid and economic assistance.
“Co-operation with Australia to help rebuild Ukraine is crucial. We are like-minded countries,” Mr Myroshnychenko told AAP.
“We hope there will be (international) mechanisms that allow investors from countries like Australia to come in and help rebuild the country.”
The bilateral trade deal could be modelled on the UK free trade agreement and be completed within a year, Mr Myroshnychenko says.
Such a deal was raised with the previous government but talks stalled as Australia headed into the federal election and caretaker conventions took over.
The ambassador will bring three pillars to any meetings with Australian ministers, calling for more lethal aid, free trade and investment, and further sanctions on Russia and Russian individuals.
This includes increased efforts to seize Russian assets in the region to make it more difficult and costly for the Kremlin to continue the war.
Ukraine has specifically requested long-range missiles which can strike targets at a range of 150km, as well as more ammunition as stockpiles dwindle.
“For us to move forward we need a steady supply of weapons,” Mr Myroshnychenko said.
More sophisticated fighting and reconnaissance drones able to avoid Russian counter interference have also been requested, as have infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers.
Mr Myroshnychenko has also returned with a personal letter for Anthony Albanese from President Zelenskiy, congratulating the new prime minister and welcoming him to visit Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong spoke with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba at the start of the month where he requested additional heavy weapons and proposed the inclusion of Ukraine in Australia’s “generalised system of preferences” to bolster the economy.
The system provides tariff reductions on a variety of products.