Parliament closes legal loophole to stop excessive Ukrainian chicken imports

The European Parliament agreed on Tuesday to modify the EU-Ukraine trade agreement to curb imports of cheap Ukrainian poultry meat entering the EU using a legal loophole.

In a resolution adopted by 444 votes to 128 with 74 abstentions, MEPs called on Ukraine to respect the full trade agreement for good cooperation between the EU and Ukraine. Food safety and health standards apply to all products imported to the EU, they added.

The new poultry regime will handle boneless and bony chicken breasts on a single tariff line, and will raise the amounts that Ukraine is able to export to the EU without tariffs. Once Ukrainian exporters have exhausted the duty-free quota, they will have to pay duties on additional exports to the EU.

The change to the 2016 EU-Ukraine trade deal became necessary because a Ukrainian producer exploited a loophole in the trade deal to sell more duty-free chicken breast – a product considered vital for the livelihood of EU farmers. Although the EU had import quotas in place to shield EU farmers from excess imports, chicken breast with a piece of wing bone could legally be imported to the EU without restrictions.

Rapporteur Enikő Győri (EPP, HU) said: “This modification ensures that EU producers will now be protected against unlimited imports of poultry meat. In the future, Ukraine should respect the spirit of faithful cooperation with the EU, while the EU should work to exclude loopholes. I call on Ukrainian exporters to abide by the provisions of the full trade agreement, including respecting sanitary and phytosanitary rules.”

The modified regime will enter into force after Council’s approval and when Ukraine has ratified the agreement.

Imports of bony chicken breast from Ukraine rose almost fifteen-fold to 55,000 tons from 2016 to 2018, and were sold significantly more cheaply than similar EU products. Ukraine accounts for 0.9% of the EU’s total trade. In 2016 and 2017, poultry meat imported from Ukraine accounted for 1.1 percent of total EU poultry imports.

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