Ukraine: EU plans more tariff-free trade, and limits

EU has reached a provisional deal to extend tariff-free Ukrainian agricultural imports until June 2025, but with more restrictions. Zelenskyy thanked allies for military aid pledges at Ramstein

Ukrainian agricultural exports into the EU have faced protests in several European countries, not least neighboring Poland. (photo: DW)
Ukrainian agricultural exports into the EU have faced protests in several European countries, not least neighboring Poland. (photo: DW)


The European Union has reached a provisional agreement on granting Ukraine’s food producers tariff-free access to the bloc’s markets until June next year.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has thanked Ukraine’s allies, who met at the US air base in Ramstein, for their efforts.

EU plans to extend tariff-free access, but with more limits

Negotiators from the European Council and the European Parliament have reached a provisional agreement to continue the freeze on import duties and quotas on Ukrainian exports to EU markets until June 2025, the Belgian EU presidency said on Wednesday.

However, the accord will include tougher restrictions on some agricultural produce, following protests and pressure from farmers and other groups in recent months.

"This renewal underscores our unwavering support to Ukraine while including safeguard mechanisms to protect EU market," the European Council said in a statement.

"At the same time, the EU has decided to reinforce the protection of sensitive agricultural products by beefing up safeguards already included in the current regulation on temporary trade-liberalization measures," the statement also said, before detailing some of the tougher restrictions.

In January, the European Commission had proposed to suspend duties and quotas on Ukrainian farm produce, with an "emergency brake" for poultry, eggs and sugar, meaning that tariffs would be levied if imports surpassed the average levels of 2022 and 2023.

On Wednesday, European lawmakers extended this list to include oats, maize, groats and honey. It also said that the safeguards would kick in more quickly, after 14 rather than 21 days, where limits were exceeded.

The Parliament also said that it has attained commitments from the Commission to take action if Ukrainian wheat imports spiked.

"The autonomous trade measures (ATMs) will allow Ukraine to continue generating its own income from trade flows with the EU, which is important to support its economy under very challenging circumstances," the European Council said in a press release.

“Coupled with the EU’s extensive military, financial and humanitarian support, this will help Ukraine with its long-term recovery as well as its gradual integration into the EU internal market." it added.

Members of the European Parliament and the Council still have to approve the provisional agreement but such agreements tend to at least closely mirror whatever final deal is reached.

Zelenskyy thanks allies for pledges at Ramstein

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his nightly video address on Tuesday expressed his gratitude for promises of new defense aid, following a gathering of Kyiv's allies at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

"There will be new defense packages, including scarce artillery," Zelenskyy said, referring to pledges made at the meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at the airbase in western Germany.

The meeting in Germany comes amid the long-running delay in Congress in the US to clearing the White House's planned 2024 military assistance for Ukraine, leading to warnings of shortages in the field and from Kyiv.

Zelenskyy said air defense remained Ukraine's main concern.

"I would also like to recognize Germany today for the announced defense package of half a billion euros," he said.

"It includes artillery and armored vehicles. We greatly appreciate the German contribution to the protection of Ukrainian lives and our independence."

Ukraine's Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, who was at the conference, said on Telegram that participants "demonstrated their unity and resolve in helping Ukraine. Our forces are critically in need of ammunition. The ammo will be delivered!"

On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cautioned that Ukraine's ability to keep fending off Russian forces was at risk as US urgent aid continues to be held up by lawmakers in Washington.

"Ukraine's survival is in danger," Austin told reporters following the meeting of Ukraine's allies.

"Our allies and partners continue to step up, the United States must also," he said.

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Published: 20 Mar 2024, 11:57 AM