13 Mar 2024 14:18

Ukraine's accession to EU market to prompt Common Agricultural Policy reform - Ukrainian trade rep

MOSCOW. March 13 (Interfax) - The European Parliament's Committee on International Trade (INTA) decision to extend duty-free access of Ukrainian agricultural produce to the European Union's market until June 2025 is a chance to resume trade links and lay the groundwork for Ukraine and its agricultural sector to fully integrate into the EU as its future member, Deputy Economy Minister and Trade Representative Taras Kachka said.

"We deserve this market access," Ukrainian media quoted Kachka as saying in an interview for Politico.

The overwhelming support of European parliamentarians is a sign that things are starting to move in the right direction, Kachka said.

"It's really just another stage in our long-term dialogue on the integration of Ukrainian agriculture into the EU," he said.

The EU's biggest agricultural lobbies, including the leading agrarian association Copa-Cogeca, have criticized the vote in a joint statement, arguing that European parliamentarians ignored the concerns of European farmers and producers. The lobbies urged the EU lawmakers to set stricter limits on certain commodities, including cereals, sugar, poultry, and honey, Politico said.

Kachka objected by saying that, while certain Ukrainian agrifood imports into the EU had increased significantly over the past two years, this merely reflected market needs.

There is no need to limit imports of products such as sugar, which the European Commission has proposed capping at 2022-2023 levels and which INTA lawmakers agreed to, Kachka said.

"This could lead to a sugar deficit in the EU as early as this summer," he said.

On the other hand, it is vital to listen to voices such as Copa-Cogeca and European lawmakers proposing that Ukrainian imports be capped, Kachka said. "They've given us a lot to think about going forward," Kachka said, noting that it was important to make decisions based on facts rather than emotions.

While commenting on months-long protests and border blockade by Polish farmers and truckers, Kachka said, "This has gone too far and ... is much more serious and dangerous than any threats from agriculture. This is really a security issue for Ukraine."

Kachka described free trade access to the EU market as a lifeline for the Ukrainian economy, saying that this has also benefited European farmers, who are exporting record amounts of processed goods to Ukraine.

However, becoming part of the bloc is quite a different thing, which will require systemic changes in the agricultural sectors on both sides of the border, he said.

"The message to our own farmers is that they need to adapt as well. We are not suggesting that the EU should accept Ukrainian agriculture as it is. That would cause problems," Kachka said.

The EU lawmakers will also have to begin a serious discussion about the future of the European agricultural industry and Ukraine's place in it, which would include reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), whose subsidies make up a third of the bloc's budget and are allocated based on farm size, Kachka said.

The world is evolving, and EU farmers "will have to adapt with or without Ukraine," Kachka said.

"Climate policy is not going away, even if there is some relaxation of the Green Deal rules. There are always developments in international trade, so that will not go away either," Kachka said.

The European community should think long and hard whether Ukraine will create additional problems or help solve existing ones, he said.

"And in my opinion, we bring a lot of opportunities, ideas and solutions that can really help EU farmers to adapt to this new reality," he said.