The European Commission has confirmed that a new free trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine has formally come into effect.
Devised as part of an association agreement signed between the two territories in June 2014, the new Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) deal is designed to provide traders in both regions with greater access to business opportunities.
The key pillars of the deal include the progressive removal of customs duties and restrictions on services and public procurement, as well as moves to safeguard intellectual property laws, workers' rights, environmental standards and disciplines on the use of subsidies and anti-competitive behaviour.
Efforts will also be made to move towards greater unification and consistency on norms and standards, including on food safety and technical regulations, to ensure greater ease of trade between Ukrainian and European businesses.
Currently, the EU is Ukraine's leading commercial partner, ahead of Russia, with the European bloc accounting for 35 per cent of the nation's external trade. Goods traded between the EU and Ukraine are worth €30 billion (£21.98 billion) a year.
The EU is also the principal source of investment in Ukraine, with more than 50 per cent of foreign direct investment in Ukraine coming from Europe. Ukraine's key exports to the EU are
mainly commodities - including iron and steel, mining products and agricultural goods - while for Europe, the country is seen as a key source of raw materials.
Cecilia Malmstrom, European commissioner for trade, said: "The entry into force of this trade area on January 1st 2016 creates unique opportunities for Ukraine to stabilise, diversify and develop its economy to the benefit of all its citizens.
"Assistance from the EU will be made available to help Ukrainian SMEs seize these new opportunities, to grow, and thereby create jobs. EU businesses will benefit as well by gaining improved access to a market of 45 million people."