EU ambassadors agree new deal on Ukraine food imports

Copa and Cogeca described the revised deal as ‘only a half step forward in the right direction’

EU member states are one step closer to reaching an agreement to extend free trade with Ukraine after envoys reached a revised deal on 27 March.

The revised deal would extend tariff-free food imports from Ukraine until June 2025 while introducing safeguards on certain products, including poultry, eggs, sugar, oats, maize, groats and honey. Under the agreement, these products will be subject to tariffs if their flows exceed the average volumes of the past three years. EU member states could also apply remedial measures in case of market turmoil.

The changes introduced after the latest round of negotiations could lead to Ukraine losing €330m a year.

Copa and Cogeca, the organisations representing European farmers and their co-operatives, described the revised deal as “only a half step forward in the right direction”.

In a statement on 18 March, the two organisations argued that from farmers’ and manufacturers’ perspective, the revised deal does not provide a real answer to the key issues. 

“In yesterday’s Coreper negotiations,” they said, “the Belgian presidency proposed to extend the reference period for the triggering of safeguard measures with the inclusion of the second half of the year 2021 as a solution for the concerns raised by many member states to the initial trilogue outcome.

“This half-response does not provide a real answer to farmers’ and manufacturers’ concerns and would only bring very limited relief for our producers. Without the inclusion of common wheat and barley in the automatic triggering of the safeguard measures and without the inclusion of the full 2021 in the reference period it remains unsustainable for farmers and manufacturers.”

The revised deal will now be sent back to the European Parliament for further debate and approval.

Copa and Cogeca warned that the deal would is also likely to “constitute the bases for further re-negotiation of the association agreement with Ukraine, providing additional concerns for the sector on the long-term effects of Ukrainian imports”.

The negotiations come at a time when farmers in many EU states are taking to the streets to call for more support to cope with rising costs. Those in countries neighbouring Ukraine have also complained about produce that is supposed to only transit through their countries ends up in the domestic market instead, which, they say, affects local prices.