Інтерв'ю заступника Міністра розвитку економіки, торгівлі та сільського господарства України - Торгового представника України Тараса Качки для видання Politico Europe: Ukraine seeks to expand EU trade terms, especially on food.
By Sarah Anne Aarup
Agri powerhouse Ukraine is thinking big when it comes to expanding its trade arrangements with Brussels, and hopes the EU has a big appetite for more food from the country that was once hailed as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union.
Kyiv is determined for this year’s EU-Ukraine trade review not to lead just to routine, small-scale liberalization. Instead, at a meeting with top Brussels officials on Thursday, Kyiv will call on the European Union to embrace free trade, arguing that it’s not an agri-food competitor to the bloc’s producers.
“We believe that the current review is not a simple request for further liberalization,” Taras Kachka, deputy minister for development of economy, trade and agriculture of Ukraine, said in an interview with POLITICO. “We want this liberalization just to reflect the systemic changes in our bilateral trade.”
He argued that the 40-odd tariff rate quotas currently in place were calculated on the basis of trade flow data from 2005 to 2007, which no longer reflect Ukraine’s exports to the bloc. TRQs specify the amount of goods trading partners can import at a discounted rate, below the tariffs agreed at the World Trade Organization.
“It’s almost 15 years since that time, Ukraine became a WTO member [in 2008]. From 2014, we have a regime of free trade [with the EU],” Kachka said.
One example is honey: “We have a tariff-rate quota for honey for 5,000 metric tons. Usually, this tariff-rate quota is exhausted by the last day of [Ukrainian] Christmas vacation on 19 January. But it doesn’t stop the export: We continue to export and pay the duty of 17 percent, and we export almost 15,000 tons of honey to the EU … driven by demand,” he said.
Ukraine is seeking to position itself as an integral part of Europe’s breadbasket rather than being seen by Brussels as competing at its edges. In 2019, Ukraine was the third largest agri-food exporter to the EU, behind Brazil and the U.S.
The EU has long harbored doubts about opening up to more agri-food produce from Ukraine. The bloc’s fear is that Ukrainian cereals, vegetable oils and oilseeds could flood the internal market. Recent data shows that the lion’s share of the EU’s oat, sorghum and rye imports come from Ukraine.
In the past few years, the EU and Kyiv have also crossed swords over imports of Ukrainian chicken breasts that Brussels argued were beating duties by defying the spirit of the trade accord.
Kachka, however, was keen to play down any suggestion of rivalry.
“We are part of this food and agricultural system of the EU, we are not a competitor at all,” said Kachka. “We as well import a lot of EU foodstuff — wines, cheeses, meat products, even in raw materials like for poultry meat — so it’s always bilateral,” the deputy minister said.
“That’s why we want to be treated as partner and to reflect this in figures and tariff rate quotas applied in our trade,” he concluded.
A European Commission spokesperson said that “Ukraine has expressed interest in initiating this process, and the EU is ready to discuss concrete proposals. Both parties will then need to negotiate the extent of respective additional concessions. A similar review was concluded with Moldova last year.”