Co-ops welcome changes to EU trade liberalisation measures for Ukraine

MEPs also agreed that all remaining duties on imports from Moldova should be suspended for another year

The European Parliament has adopted a range of amendments to the extension of trade liberalisation measures for Ukraine, which had prompted concern over the impact on EU producers from co-ops and other trade organisations.

First introduced in June 2022, the autonomous trade measures (ATMs), which allow duty-free access for all Ukrainian products to the EU, were extended by one year in 2023. Earlier this year, the Commission suggested that import duties and quotas on Ukrainian and Moldovan exports be suspended for another year.

In a vote on 13 March, MEPs voted with 347 votes in favour, 117 against and 99 abstentions to amend the Commission’s proposal to suspend import duties and quotas on Ukrainian agricultural exports to the EU for another year, from 6 June 2024 to 5 June 2025. 

Under the amended text, the Commission can intervene in the event of significant disruptions to the EU market or the market of one of more EU countries due to Ukrainian imports. Measures at the Commission’s disposal include an emergency brake for particularly sensitive agricultural products, including cereals and honey. The safeguards will be triggered automatically if quantities imported exceed the average volumes of the 2021-2023 reference period.

MEPs also voted to amend the Commission’s proposal to include more sensitive products and a wider reference date for calculating average volumes. To qualify for these liberalisation measures, Ukraine has show “respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law, and its sustained efforts to fight corruption and organised crime”.

In a separate vote, the Parliament agreed with 459 votes in favour, 65 against and 57 abstentions to suspend remaining duties on imports from Moldova for another year. The country, which imports over 90% of its seeds, fuel, and fertiliser from Ukraine and Russia, has also been impacted by the conflict. The vote means Moldova, a candidate for joining the EU, can redirect some of its trade with the rest of the world via the EU.

The Parliament’s report has been referred to the Committee on International Trade which will to start negotiations with the Council.

Copa-Cogeca, the organisations representing European farmers and agri co-ops, welcomed the amendments.

“Our organisation has never questioned the necessary support for Ukraine and has undertaken a significant task over the past two years. So the support for the European farming community shown today by MEPs is welcome,” the apexes said in a joint statement.

“The amendments tabled by most political groups introduce an improvement to the reference period (2021/2022/2023), although 2021/2022 would have been preferable. In addition, the inclusion of other affected goods such as cereals or honey in the automatic system of safeguard measures is welcome, as this responds to the overall concerns of the various member states that are increasingly feeling the effects of trade liberalisation. In any case, it is important that the measures are effective.”

Copa and Cogeca warned that while the Parliament’s amendments sent “a strong message”, the position is yet to be confirmed in the upcoming trilogue meetings between representatives of the Parliament, the Council and the Commission.

“These new measures come into force from June 2024 and our organisation continues to be very vigilant about the impact of ongoing trade liberalisation in all sectors of agricultural production,” added Copa and Cogeca. “Finally, it is important that we continue to have proactive discussions about how our trade relationship with Ukraine will evolve after June 2025, with particular attention paid to the vulnerability of the aforementioned sectors.”