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EU to impose new tariffs on Ukrainian exports

EU to Tighten Import Restrictions on Ukrainian Food Commodities

The European Union is poised to further restrict imports of key food commodities from Ukraine. This decision comes shortly after the introduction of a controversial preferential trade scheme, aimed at balancing support for Ukraine with the protection of sensitive domestic markets.

The New Trade Scheme and Immediate Reactions

Implemented on June 6, the new free-trade scheme temporarily suspends all tariffs and quotas on Ukrainian agricultural exports. This was in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. However, the scheme includes an automatic safeguard mechanism to protect specific domestic sectors from a surge in imports.

Key Commodities Under Scrutiny

The European Commission has already imposed restrictions on oat imports from Ukraine until June 5, 2025. Eggs are next in line, with import levels prompting the Commission to prepare similar restrictions within the next two weeks. Sugar imports are also under close observation, with trade experts predicting imminent controls due to surpassing emergency brake limits.


The Emergency Brake Mechanism

The safeguard mechanism allows the EU to reintroduce tariff-rate quotas if imports exceed the average quantities imported between July 1, 2021, and December 31, 2023. This mechanism has been triggered for oats and is likely to be applied to other commodities soon.

Impact on the Sugar Market

The sugar market is particularly sensitive. The EU’s association representing sugar users in the food and drink sector (CIUS) has expressed concern over potential shortages. A CIUS spokesperson highlighted fears that sugar volumes might not meet EU market demand in the coming years due to these restrictions.

Ukraine set an export record of 108,000 tonnes of sugar in May, largely driven by diversification among grain producers. With 65% of its sugar exports destined for the EU, Ukraine’s National Association of Sugar Producers (Ukrsugar) underscores the significant role of Ukrainian sugar in the European market.

Expert Insights and Future Outlook

Luc Vernet from the think tank FarmEurope noted that part of Ukraine’s sugar imports to the EU might be classified under inward processing – imported for re-export. This nuance could affect the Commission’s evaluation and decisions regarding import controls.

Despite the immediate actions, the EU Commission continues to monitor import levels closely. A spokesperson emphasized the importance of vigilance and adaptability in response to fluctuating import volumes.

Broader Implications for EU-Ukrainian Trade Relations

The restrictions reflect a complex balancing act for the EU. While supporting Ukraine through tariff suspensions aligns with broader geopolitical strategies, protecting domestic markets from oversupply is crucial. The safeguard measures aim to maintain this balance, ensuring stability in sensitive sectors.

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