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7 Mar, 2024 12:34

EU member against extending trade privileges for Ukraine

Rules for Kiev should return to how they were before the conflict with Moscow, the Polish prime minister has said
EU member against extending trade privileges for Ukraine

Warsaw wants the EU to scrap the preferential trade rules granted to Kiev after the start of the conflict with Russia, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters on Thursday, amid pressure from nationwide farmers’ protests. 

Tusk said that at upcoming meetings with European leaders – including one on Thursday with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen at the European People’s Party congress in Bucharest – he will push for changes to protect Polish and EU markets and producers.

“By changes we mean the need to return more or less to the rules that applied in trade with Ukraine and other third countries before the outbreak of the war,” he said.

Shortly after the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, the European Commission temporarily lifted all duties and quotas on Ukrainian goods for a period of one year, with the goal of allowing Kiev’s agricultural produce to be shipped onward to global markets. However, much of the supply ended up flooding Eastern European markets and destabilizing prices.

In 2023, Brussels extended the measure for another year, despite protests from farmers across the bloc, who argued that the preferential treatment of Ukraine was creating unfair competition and threatening their livelihoods.

On Thursday, the European Parliament Trade Committee supported a proposal to once again prolong the special trade regime for Ukraine until June 2025. The decision will need final approval at a session of the European Parliament in April. 

Meanwhile, Warsaw has unilaterally halted Ukrainian food imports, after protests by Polish farmers – who have almost entirely blocked border crossings with Ukraine to prevent any grain from entering.

The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Ukraine has agreed to accept certain trade restrictions with the EU in order to end its dispute with Poland. However, Kiev has demanded that in exchange, the bloc should ban the import of agri-food products, particularly grain, from Russia and Belarus.

Warsaw has voiced support for Kiev’s request, with Tusk announcing on Monday that such measures would also be backed by Lithuania. According to official data, Poland’s imports of food products from Russia amounted to some $380 million in 2023, compared to $1.8 billion in imports from Ukraine.