Alexey Ulyukaev: We Impose Our Standards Upon Nobody
On December 9, 2015 Minister of Economic Development Alexey Ulyukaev took part in the meeting of the President with government members. One of the topics that were discussed during the meeting concerned the cooperation of Russia with European and Ukrainian partners after January 1, 2016 when the implementation of economic aspects of Ukraine-EU association is planned.
“We made our suggestion which, indeed, was not new for our partners because this is the fourth time we propose this document,” said Alexey Ulyukaev about the negotiations in Brussels on December 1, 2015. “The only difference between this version and the previous ones is that we are willing to compromise even more. We offered an expression of good will from our side.”
According to Minister, our approach is very simple. If we take on the responsibility of maintaining a preferential customs tariff regime for Ukraine, a zero tariff within the CIS free trade zone, then we expect our partners to undertake obligations within this free trade zone (because of a large number of agreements regulating technical standards, veterinary and phytosanitary standards, and so on), support these obligations (at least during the transition periods that would allow business to maintain normal trade relations) and maintain the same operating conditions. And here, we are talking about maintaining the same actual veterinary certificates, so that manufacturers can sell agricultural products and about maintaining compliance certificates for industrial manufacturers. “We suggested that a transition period be no more than ten years for a limited number of trade sectors with gradual lowering of this requirement threshold. We made advances everywhere. There are only seven sectors left,” he added.
Alexey Ulyukaev informed that in order to retain the preferential zero tariff regime for Ukrainian goods rather than for goods from third countries that would pass through a large free trade zone into our customs territory Russia had offered to organize a three-way information exchange between customs agencies so that we got electronic information about the movement of goods and corresponding transportation. “This suggestion was taken into account and our partners said that they would be ready to discuss it soon at the expert level and respond to our concerns in written form,” he said.
Minister informed that on December, 5 the respond from EU had been received. “This was not a response to our draft, but a new version of their draft: two previous versions with some slight changes. Some wordings were more polite and comfortable, but the essence remained as follows: we cannot apply our veterinary certificates and must apply European ones, it means that we shall be pushed out of the Ukrainian market and free it for the European food products,” he noted. The transition periods can be established only in the course of the agreement on a free trade zone between Ukraine and the EU. “So we need to apply to specially created working groups, and they might consider our suggestions and introduce these transition periods or might not introduce,” he added. “As for information exchange, it can only be bilateral between Russia and Ukraine, the EU does not undertake such obligations.”
According to Alexey Ulyukaev these suggestions were examined once again and yesterday another expert meeting was held where we saw even less willingness to compromise, even less willingness to respond to our concerns than at the ministerial level. “We were told that it was impossible in customs regulation, that information exchange was impossible under the European rules. Although studying the European Union’s Customs Code shows that these prohibitions do not exist. Transition periods are also possible only during execution of the agreement and before the parties are not ready to undertake these obligations,” he said. “We said that in this case we were not be able to reach an agreement. We understand the consequences of implementing this agreement on January, 1 without taking into account our concerns. We are not closing the door, we are ready for discussion. But the chances are getting slim.”
Vladimir Putin noted that the EU had agreed to apply transition period in the context of Ukraine-EU association in the sphere of technical regulation only for high-speed rail link. “But as far as I understand it is not enough for us,” he added.
“It is absolutely not enough for us. We do not impose our standards upon anybody, we are talking about the parallel use of two technical regulation systems. It means that a company can choose to use European standards or CIS standards in this situation,” Alexey Ulyukaev noted. According to Minister, such practice exists in the European Union as both European and international standards are valid there. “But for some reason this practice is unacceptable for Russia and Ukraine,” Minister noted.
“In spite of all these complications, I will ask you to continue this discussion in the hope of reaching some sort of agreement before January 1, 2016,” Vladimir Putin ordered.