Considerations on COM(2023)106 - Temporary trade liberalisation supplementing trade concessions applicable to Ukrainian products under the Association Agreement with Ukraine

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(1) The Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Ukraine, of the other part 6 (‘the Association Agreement’) constitutes the basis of the relationship between the Union and Ukraine. In accordance with Council Decision 2014/668/EU 7 , Title IV of the Association Agreement, which relates to trade and trade-related matters, has been applied provisionally since 1 January 2016 8 , and entered into force on 1 September 2017, following ratification by all Member States. 

(2) The Association Agreement expresses the desire of the Parties to the Association Agreement (‘the Parties’) to strengthen and widen relations in an ambitious and innovative way, to facilitate and achieve gradual economic integration, and to do so in compliance with the rights and obligations arising out of the World Trade Organization membership of the Parties.

(3) Article 25 of the Association Agreement provides for the progressive establishment of a free trade area between the Parties in accordance with Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (‘GATT 1994’). To that end, Article 29 of the Association Agreement provides for the progressive elimination of customs duties in accordance with the Schedules included therein and for the possibility of accelerating and broadening the scope of such elimination. Article 48 of the Association Agreement provides that the public interest is to be considered before applying anti-dumping measures between the Parties.

(4) Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine since 24 February 2022 has had a profoundly negative impact on the ability of Ukraine to trade with the rest of the world, both because of the destruction of production capacity and the unavailability of a significant proportion of means of transport, e.g. due to the restriction and uncertainty of access to the Black Sea. Under such exceptional circumstances and to mitigate the negative economic impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, it is necessary to accelerate the development of closer economic relations between the Union and Ukraine in order to provide continued support to the Ukrainian authorities and population. It is therefore necessary and appropriate to continue stimulating trade flows and granting concessions in the form of trade-liberalisation measures for all products, in line with the acceleration of the elimination of customs duties on trade between the Union and Ukraine

(5) In accordance with Article 21(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the Union is to ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action. Pursuant to Article 207(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the common commercial policy is to be conducted in the context of the principles and objectives of the Union’s external action.

(6) Regulation (EU) 2022/870 of the European Parliament and of the Council 9  will expire on 5 June 2023.

(7) The trade-liberalisation measures established by this Regulation should take the following form: (i) the suspension of the application of the entry price system to fruit and vegetables; (ii) the suspension of tariff-rate quotas and import duties; (iii) by way of derogation from Article 14(1), first subparagraph, of Regulation (EU) 2016/1036 of the European Parliament and of the Council 10 , anti-dumping duties on imports originating in Ukraine made during the application of this Regulation should not be collected at any point in time, including after the expiry of this Regulation; and (iv) the temporary suspension of the application of Regulation (EU) 2015/478 of the European Parliament and of the Council 11 . Through those measures, the Union will, in effect, temporarily provide appropriate economic and financial support to the benefit of Ukraine and the economic operators that are affected.

(8) In order to prevent fraud, the preferential arrangements established by this Regulation should be conditional upon Ukraine complying with all the relevant conditions for obtaining benefits under the Association Agreement, including the rules of origin of products concerned and the procedures related thereto, as well as Ukraine’s involvement in close administrative cooperation with the Union, as provided for by the Association Agreement.

(9) Ukraine should abstain from introducing new duties or charges having equivalent effect and new quantitative restrictions or measures having equivalent effect, from increasing existing levels of duties or charges or from introducing any other restrictions on trade with the Union, unless clearly justified in the context of Russia’s military agression. In the event that Ukraine fails to comply with any of those conditions, the Commission should be empowered to suspend temporarily all or part of the preferential arrangements established by this Regulation. 

(10) Article 2 of the Association Agreement provides, among other things, that respect for democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms, the promotion of respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, and independence as well as countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, related materials and their means of delivery constitute essential elements of the Association Agreement. Furthermore, Article 3 of the Association Agreement states that the rule of law, good governance, the fight against corruption, the fight against the different forms of trans-national organised crime and terrorism, the promotion of sustainable development and effective multilateralism are central to enhancing the relationship between the Parties. It is appropriate to introduce the possibility of temporarily suspending the preferential arrangements established by this Regulation if Ukraine fails to respect the general principles of the Association Agreement, as is the case under other association agreements concluded by the Union.

(11) In order to ensure uniform conditions for the implementation of this Regulation, implementing powers should be conferred on the Commission to temporarily suspend the preferential arrangements provided in Article 1(1), points (a) and (b) if the conditions for entitlement to the preferential arrangements are no longer complied with. These powers should also be conferred to introduce safeguards in cases where Union markets of like or directly competing products are adversely affected by imports under this Regulation. Those powers should be exercised in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council 12 .

(12) Subject to an assessment of three months by the Commission based on regular monitoring of the impact of this Regulation and either following a duly substantiated request from a Member State or on the Commission’s own initiative, it is necessary to provide for the possibility to reintroduce the customs duties otherwise applicable under the Association Agreement for imports of any products falling under the scope of this Regulation which are adversely affecting the Union market of like or directly competing products.

(13) The Commission’s annual report on the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which is an integral part of the Association Agreement, should include a detailed assessment of the implementation of the trade liberalisation measures established by this Regulation.

(14) In view of the urgency of the matter related to the situation caused by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, it is considered to be appropriate to invoke the exception to the eight-week period provided for in Article 4 of Protocol No 1 on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union, annexed to the TEU, to the TFEU and to the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community.

(15) In light of the urgency of the economic situation in Ukraine and the expiry of Regulation (EU) 2022/870 of the European Parliament and of the Council on 5 June 2023, this Regulation should enter into force on 6 June 2023.