5 Oct 2023 19:43

Kiev's dispute at WTO over agricultural trade with Poland, Hungary, Slovakia paused for dialogue at EU level

MOSCOW. Oct 5 (Interfax) - Consideration of Ukraine's claim against Poland, Hungary and Slovakia at the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been paused in order to resolve issues of Ukraine's trade with the European Union countries as a whole, Ukrainian Deputy Economy Minister and Trade Representative Taras Kachka said, as Ukrainian media reported.

"This is generally a matter of the functioning of trade between Ukraine and the EU. We see that this problem [import of Ukrainian agricultural products] will be resolved in the coming weeks and months. There will be a lot of news about how the licensing regime is changing and so on. There will be very active work. Therefore, while we are seeking a practical solution, our disputes in the WTO are on pause today," Kachka told reporters in Brussels on Thursday.

Ukraine is currently holding consultations at the WTO, and the procedures related to the dispute have not yet begun, Kachka said. "We are not in a dispute, we have not formalized a working body for the dispute, and we are at the stage of consultations. We have submitted this case [to the WTO], and there are 60 days for consultations," he said.

In this regard, Kachka said that it is important for the Ukrainian side to find a "constructive solution within the framework of the entire EU."

"Despite the fact that the complaints we have filed against specific member states, including Poland, this is a systemic matter of our relations with the EU, our goal is to emphasize that the EU and Ukraine have the same approach to trade agreements. Therefore, we see how to solve this problem comprehensively in a way that shows the unity between us and Poland, between us and the EU, and between Poland and the EU," Kachka said.

Kiev has already regulated the customs clearance of goods that are transited through five of Ukraine's neighboring countries, he said. "We see that no country prohibits this transit. This is a great joint achievement. We have the only sensitive point left: this is a question of when the markets of neighboring countries could be opened for Ukrainian goods. This is a minor problem, because we do not sell a lot of grain products there. But this is generally a matter of the functioning of trade between Ukraine and the EU," Kachka said.

At the same time, he expressed confidence that the problem with the import of Ukrainian agricultural products would be resolved in the coming months.

Referring to the situation with Poland, Kachka said he hoped that the parties would be able to resume the discussion after the elections in that country. "I don't see any systemic obstacles to resolve this problem. It is a matter of time. Besides, as of now there are no requests for export licenses from Ukrainian companies to Poland, which is an additional indicator that there is no massive export pressure on the Polish internal market. We use this time to show that, in fact, the clear interest of Ukrainian exporters is simply to export to those EU member states where the demand for Ukrainian goods is really high," he said.

"The market will calm down this fall," Kachka said. "We are all returning to normal trade flows, which will allow us to return to a situation that is convenient for local farmers in the neighboring EU countries and for Ukrainian farmers," he added.

In addition, the bulk of Ukrainian agricultural products goes through Romanian ports, Baltic ports, by rail and road, he said.

As reported, the European Commission said on September 15 that it would not extend restrictions on imports of agricultural products from Ukraine to five neighboring EU countries with some conditions to avoid a new surge in supplies.

These restrictions were imposed on May 2 and concerned imports of wheat, rapeseed, sunflower and corn, to five EU member states, namely, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. These countries said that Ukrainian agricultural products, when imported free of duty into the EU, were ending up in their countries and damaging their farmers.

After the restrictions were lifted, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia imposed unilateral bans. Poland expanded the list of products banned for import to include rapeseed cake and meal, as well as corn bran, wheat flour and other by-products. Hungary extended the list to 24 commodity items. In response, Ukraine filed a lawsuit with the WTO accusing Poland, Hungary and Slovakia of discriminatory treatment of Ukrainian agricultural products.