Increased tariffs on Russian and Belarusian grain products

28 March 2024

Last Friday, 22nd March, the European Commission proposed to increase the tariffs on imports into the EU of cereals, oilseeds, and derived products (‘grain products’) from Russia and Belarus, including wheat, maize, and sunflower meal. These tariffs, while high enough to suppress such imports into the EU in practice, would not affect exports to third countries.

The measures are designed to achieve several objectives:

*to prevent EU market destabilisation through any future significant redirection of Russian grain products onto the EU market. The EU farming community has, in particular, expressed concerns about this risk – Russia’s role as a leading global grain exporter, coupled with its willingness to use food exports as a geopolitical tool, shows that it is high.
*to tackle Russian exports of illegally appropriated grain produced in the territories of Ukraine, some of which has been illegally exported to the EU market deliberately mislabelled as ‘Russian’. The tariffs proposed today will ensure that this illicit export method is no longer profitable.
*to prevent Russia from using revenues from exports to the EU – of both Russian and illegally appropriated Ukrainian grain products – to fund its war of aggression against Ukraine. As Russia exported some 1.3 billion euros’ worth of such products to the EU in 2023, these EU tariffs will cut off another important source of profit for the Russian economy and, by extension, the Russian war machine.

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “We propose the imposition of tariffs on these Russian imports to mitigate the growing risk to our markets and our farmers. They will reduce Russia’s capacity to exploit the EU for the benefit of its war machine. And we maintain our commitment to preserving global food security, especially for developing countries. We are striking the right balance between supporting our economy and farming communities. At the same time, we maintain our unyielding support for Ukraine. “

The increased tariffs would also apply to Belarus in light of the country’s close political and economic ties to Russia. Moreover, by including Belarus in the new measure, the EU will prevent Russia from using Belarus to circumvent the new tariffs and channel its goods onto the EU market.

The transit of cereals, oilseeds and derived products from Russia and Belarus to third countries is unaffected by today’s proposal. This shows that the European Union remains fully committed to promoting food security globally, especially when it comes to developing countries.

More than two years after the start of Russia’s full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine, Europe is united and determined to continue defending our values and founding principles. The EU stands firmly with Ukraine and its people, and will continue to strongly support Ukraine’s economy, as well as its society, armed forces, and future reconstruction, for as long as it takes.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade : “Today’s proposal is a timely and necessary step: Russian and Belarussian grain and grain-related products have until now been able to enter the EU market with low or no customs duties and we saw these imports rise considerably in 2023. Our proposed prohibitive tariffs will make imports of these products commercially unviable, thereby also preventing possible future surges that could destabilise the EU food market. It will also help put a stop to the Russian practice of illegally exporting stolen Ukrainian grain into the EU. We have been careful to uphold global food security: this measure will not affect the transit of Russian and Belarussian grain products to third countries. Last but not least, today’s proposal will choke off another important source of revenue for the Russian government to fund its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine.”

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