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EU Parliament preliminarily approved extension of duty-free exports of Ukrainian agricultural products

EU Parliament preliminarily approved extension of duty-free exports of Ukrainian agricultural products Illustrative photo (photo: Getty Images)

On Wednesday, March 19, the European Parliament and the European Council reached a preliminary agreement to extend trade liberalization measures for Ukraine against the backdrop of Russia's aggressive war, according to the European Parliament press service.

The temporary suspension of import duties and quotas on Ukrainian agricultural exports to the EU will be renewed for another year, until 5 June 2025, to support Ukraine amidst Russia’s continuing war of aggression.

The Commission can take swift action and impose any measures it deems necessary should there be significant disruption to the EU market or the markets of one or more EU countries due to Ukrainian imports.

The resolution also provides for emergency braking for particularly sensitive agricultural products, namely poultry, eggs, and sugar. Members of the European Parliament have succeeded in expanding this list to include oats, maize, cereals, and honey. They also secured firm commitments from the Commission to take action if there is a surge in Ukrainian wheat imports.

The base period for triggering emergency braking will be 2022 and 2023, meaning that if imports of these products exceed the average levels of these two years, tariffs will be reintroduced. Negotiators from the EP also ensured that the Commission would act more quickly – within 14 days instead of 21 days – if trigger levels of automatic safeguards are reached.

Rapporteur Sandra Kalniete (EPP, LV) said: “Tonight's agreement reinforces the EU’s continued commitment to stand by Ukraine in the face of Russia’s brutal war of aggression until Ukraine’s victory. Russia's targeting of Ukraine and its food production also impacts EU farmers. The Parliament heard their concerns, and bolstered safeguard measures that would alleviate the pressure on EU farmers should they be overwhelmed by a sudden surge in Ukrainian imports."

Parliament and Council will now both have to give their final green light to the provisional agreement. The current suspension expires on 5 June 2024. The new regulations should enter into force immediately following this expiration date.

Ukraine's position

Earlier, Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Economy and Trade Representative, Taras Kachka, stated that Ukraine is ready to impose new restrictions on its trade with the EU to defuse a sharp political dispute with Poland, but also calls on the bloc to ban the import of Russian grain.

Poland's position

After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the EU lifted tariffs on Ukrainian imports. Under the previous government, Warsaw unilaterally imposed a ban in violation of EU trade rules, and recent protests have forced Prime Minister Donald Tusk to seek exceptions from Brussels and continue to adhere to restrictions. "We need to find a solution that effectively protects the Polish and European markets from unfair competition," Tusk said during a visit to Lithuania on March 4.

He agreed on the need to ban the import of agricultural products from Russia and Belarus. Tusk stated that bloc-wide restrictions would be more effective after Latvia recently introduced a nationwide ban on Russian imports. However, achieving a bloc-wide ban will be difficult, as some member states oppose such a move due to fears that it will destabilize global markets and exacerbate the economic and social crisis in developing countries. Russian grain exports to the EU increased by more than 50% to 1.5 million tons in the period from 2022 to 2023.

Border blockade

Polish farmers began a border blockade with Ukraine on February 9, demanding the cancellation of the decision on duty-free trade between Ukraine and the EU.

Polish Minister of Agriculture Czesław Siekierski stated that his ministry wants to develop a bilateral agreement with Ukraine that would expand the scope of market protection, including other sensitive products: sugar, poultry meat, eggs, berries, honey, apple juice, and oil.