Trade: In my backyard

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Multilateral trade pacts are increasingly giving way to regional ones

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UKRAINE, LONG PULLED back and forth between east and west, is feeling the tug again, this time between rival trade blocks. Next month it hopes to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union. But Russia wants Ukraine for its own customs union, which already includes two other former Soviet republics. So earlier this year, in a clumsy effort to change its neighbour’s mind, the Kremlin banned Ukrainian sweets because they allegedly contained carcinogens, then imposed long, intrusive customs checks that slowed Ukrainian exports of steel, machinery and chemicals to a crawl.
The tiff has geopolitical undertones: Russia does not want Ukraine, with which it has deep cultural and political ties, to drift into the West’s sphere of influence. But it also points to a change in the world trading system. Russia joined …

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