Stepan Kubiv is the First Vice-Prime Minister of Ukraine.
Two years ago, Ukraine was swept by the Euromaidan "Revolution of Dignity" – a grassroots movement that demanded honesty, integrity and a Euro-orientation from its government. Today, two years after those bloody events in Kiev and 25 years after Ukraine gained its independence from the corroding Soviet empire, Ukraine is undergoing a separate rebirth: a business revolution.
This transformation is built on our assets, from natural resources to human capital. Ukraine has one of the world's most educated populations, with a literacy rate of 99.7 per cent.
There are no better examples than two creative sectors. In fashion, Ukrainian designers such as Vita Kin are wowing the runways of Paris. And in the tech sector, Ukraine is the No. 1 software engineering force in Central and Eastern Europe, with firms such as SoftServe, Ciklum, and Mirasoft doing research and making breakthroughs. Kiev-born-and-raised Jan Koum (WhatsApp) and Max Levchin (PayPal) are helping to change the way we live, work – and pay. Already, more than 100 global companies have software research and development facilities in Ukraine.
In the traditional agriculture sector, today's Ukraine is anything but . It boasts one-third of the world's black-earth soil, is the top exporter of sunflower oil and the No. 2 exporter of grain. This has been achieved through aggressive modernization and efficiencies.
Our pharma sector grows 15 per cent a year. E-commerce has grown by 500 per cent in the past five years. Our 640,000 yearly postsecondary graduates tilt heavily toward engineering, information technology and aerospace.
Ukraine is the largest country contained entirely within Europe, and our cargo can reach any European city within two trucking days. With 170,000 kilometres of roadways and 22,000 kilometres of railway, we are connected at a top European standard of transport infrastructure.
What does Ukraine offer Canada? In a world of global supply chains where production tends to follow efficiency, Ukraine offers a high-quality, low-cost manufacturing centre for Canadian firms seeking to produce for international markets. In addition, Ukraine's IT outsourcing services have grown dramatically, and our firms have the capacity to serve the world's most significant and iconic brands. For instance, Ukraine's EPAM provides the complete IT outsourcing for the Canadian Tire website and its online shopping infrastructure.
And what can Canada provide for Ukraine? Ukraine is investing in its own future, and Canada has the opportunity to support that through investment in Ukraine – in everything from transportation and infrastructure to renewable energy. Canadian firms are among the global leaders in the design, management and operation of infrastructure, and Ukraine is aggressively upgrading.
Our government recognizes that to attract investment, Ukraine must root out corruption and offer a business environment favourable to trade and investment. We have already launched the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, whose 150 newly trained detectives are working on identifying and combatting corruption.
We have also been listening to what international businesses working in Ukraine identified as obstacles to investment and have begun implementing solutions. We have launched judicial reform through unprecedented unity between our government, parliament and presidency.
We are making strides through rapid deregulation and privatization. In just four years, Ukraine has leapfrogged 69 countries on the World Bank index for ease of doing business. Today, a new company can be opened in just two days, with an ever-lowering paper burden that co-exists with ever-stronger anti-corruption measures. Ukraine is a stable place for Canadian business.
Canada has a unique opportunity to establish strong trade and investment links with Ukraine. The governments of Canada and Ukraine are in the process of finalizing a free-trade agreement that will phase out all tariffs over the next seven years. Moreover, it will offer entry into a market of more than 700 million consumers through Ukraine's implementation of the EU Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
Ukraine has long been a part of Canada, with more than 1.25 million Canadians tracing their roots there. But this is not just a story about the past – it's about the future. There is no business and trade relationship more natural. Our sectors line up, our strengths and needs are complementary, and our people are a perfect match. This relationship will only grow. We are open for Canadian business, and we will continue to prove it.