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On July 11, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman together signed the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA). The agreement, signed in Kiev, is meant to further improve market access between the two countries, settle trade conditions, create jobs, and cement their status as allies. The Canadian government has been a fervent supporter of Ukraine ever since the nation's first clashes with Russia, which left Ukraine in war-torn, economically faltering conditions. Talks for CUFTA between the two countries had been going for months before final negotiations wrapped up last year. Now, the confirmation of CUFTA signifies Canada's continued support of Ukraine in the face of its struggles.

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Ukraine’s economy has contracted ten of the last eleven quarters in an economic downturn that stretches back to 2012. In the first quarter of 2015 the economy contracted 18% compared to the same period last year, while Gross Domestic Product fell 7% in the same period. The underlying causes of this recession are both a downturn in the domestic market, as well as a struggle to sever its economic dependence on Russia and orient itself more towards the west, specifically the European Union.

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The United States has pledged financial support of $2 billion to Ukraine to help them prevent a looming bankruptcy, and boost recovery efforts amidst the financial turmoil in Europe and Asia. Ukraine is trying to recover and stabilize its economy, but the waging conflict in Eastern Ukraine with Pro-Russia rebels is hurting the economy and driving down consumer spending.

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Now that a year has passed since former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign Ukraine's EU Association Agreement, which began the protests in Maidan Square in Ukraine, the dust from the conflict is beginning to settle allowing speculation regarding the outlook of the nation's rebuilding economy. Now that current President Petro Poroshenko has signed the agreement, many economists are pointing towards rapid growth in the country's tech sector as a sign that clear skies are ahead for the European-aligned new Ukraine. In spite of this, crippling corruption and a brain drain are also casting doubts over Ukraine's foreseeable future.

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Tensions across Europe are escalating as a potential energy crisis is looming in the near future. In June of this year, Russia cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine, citing Ukraine's failure to payback debt. Ukraine has since been receiving gas from Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Hungary, however, suspended the flow of natural gas to Ukraine last Friday, intensifying the energy crisis in Ukraine.  Ukraine is dependent on natural gas to heat homes and to power industry during the rapidly approaching winter months.

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Within the last weeks, few news headlines have been as heart-wrenching as the loss of 298 lives on the Malaysian Airlines commercial flight that has been suspected of being destroyed by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Stemming from the Russian government's support of this group, many countries, including the United States and members of the European Union, have proposed increasing sanctions on Vladimir Putin's government. These sanctions would include banning people in the U.S. from banking with three Russian banks, as well as sanctions targeting the oil sector, defense equipment, and sensitive technologies.

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In the midst of what appeared to be a comeback for the European automotive market, which includes western Russia in international marketing figures, the current political crisis in Ukraine has spurred on fears that Russia's days as a growing reliable source of car sales may be coming to a quick halt. Seeing as Russian forces in the Crimea region has resurrected Cold War tensions between Russian and Western supported factions, American and European investors in the Russian automotive market have reportedly lost confidence in Russia as a continued source of fuel for the sector's global recovery. These tensions come alongside economic turmoil that the international automotive industry has been handling in other emerging markets, which includes the currency market problems that are worsening prospects in the emerging-market countries of Turkey and South Africa.

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The political and economic future of Ukraine remains uncertain despite a rapidly changing political situation. This uncertainty will undoubtedly affect economic conditions for those in Ukraine but also other countries supporting Ukraine. Officials from both the United States and the European Union have stated that they are willing to provide financial assistance to Ukraine. How will the future of Ukraine be shaped by this financial assistance and growing international relationship?

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Ukraine’s economic future is contingent on a key decision that will be made by government leaders in the next couple of weeks.  In short, the country’s leaders must decide whether or not to accept a free-trade and political-association agreement with the European Union.  If Ukraine passes on this agreement, it is likely that the country will become a part of the Russian-led Customs Union, which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.  This decision will undoubtedly shape Ukraine’s economic environment going forward, especially related to trade.

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Recently, Doug Barry of the U.S. Commercial Service, interviewed Rich Steffens, who is head of the Senior Commercial Office in the Ukraine. In the interview, Mr. Steffens describes the learning curve required to effectively market and do business in the Ukraine and the larger former Soviet bloc. He also describes the major industries and natural resources which shape the way business is done, and the future markets that might emerge there. He also describes ways in which the U.S. Commercial service can, and has provided assistance to those seeking to do business in the Ukraine.

Check out the video version of the interview, or read the transcript!