KIEV, Ukraine -- A senior European Union official on Thursday predicted a free-trade deal with Ukraine could be concluded by 2013, the Interfax news agency reported.
I am absolutely sure that we can sign this agreement by the end of the year,' said Philippe Cuisson, who heads a European Commission delegation in Ukraine for talks on the free-trade zone.
Such an agreement would go into effect beginning in 2013, with duty barriers to be completedly eliminated by 2019, he said.
'Ukraine will be fully integrated with the European economy in 10 years, like Switzerland or Norway,' he said.
Ukraine's government has identified economic integration with the EU as one of its top priorities, seeing it as means to expanding exports and attracting foreign investment.
The EU is a major consumer of Ukraine's top export products, particularly metals and agricultural goods.
Ukraine's biggest imports from the EU are machinery, transport equipment, chemicals and textile products.