Member states agree to extend duty-free imports of Ukrainian agricultural products

EU member states have reached an agreement on the extension of duty-free imports of Ukrainian agricultural products, the Belgian presidency announced on Wednesday.

"EU ambassadors agreed on a new compromise on the extension of trade measures for Ukraine, with a balanced approach between support for Ukraine and the protection of European agricultural markets," the presidency said on X.

The duty-free imports from Ukraine, which are due to expire on 5 June, were agreed after Russia's invasion in February 2022 to continue to provide the country with important income in times of war. Ukraine can export around 2.15 billion euros worth of agricultural products to the EU each year.

But the bloc had to find a solution after a minority led by France and Poland objected to an agreement with the European Parliament to continue duty-free imports. They wanted more protection for European grain markets, especially wheat.

Belgian compromise

Belgian diplomacy found a compromise that does not include automatic caps on wheat, as is the case for duty-free imports of poultry, eggs, sugar, maize, oats, groats and honey. Once imports of these products exceed a certain volume, tariffs are automatically imposed.

However, the emergency brake allowing safeguard measures to be taken can be activated more quickly, thanks to an extension of the reference period to the second half of 2021, before the invasion of Ukraine. The previous compromise only covered 2022 and 2023, when duty-free imports were already taking place.

Under pressure from farmers' protests, the EU is building in safeguards to prevent massive imports from driving down prices on European markets. With this new compromise, Ukraine would lose around 330 million euros in revenue.

The Belgian EU presidency still has to present the new text to the European Parliament, which will hold its last plenary session before the European elections at the end of April. The parliament has already expressed its support for stronger protection of wheat markets.



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