Belarus is ready to resume free trade with Ukraine if the latter reviews its measures on Belarusian goods, Belarusian First Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Guryanov said.
"We're ready to fully scrap all our decisions. We're ready to resume free trade in full. But not before Ukraine has reviewed the measures taken in regard to Belarusian products, whose de facto aim was simply to limit competition from Belarusian manufacturers," Guryanov said, commenting on a Belarusian government decision to license the import of certain types of goods in order to restrict trade with Ukraine.
His commentary was published on the ministry's website on Friday.
Earlier on Friday, Ukrainian Deputy Economic Minister and Trade Representative Taras Kachka said that Belarus was about to introduce an individual licensing regime on the import of a number of Ukrainian goods.
"There is information that Belarus has introduced individual licensing of the import of some Ukrainian goods: confectionary products, chocolate, juices, beer, chip and fiber boards, wallpaper, toilet paper and packaging, bricks, ceramic tiles, glass ampoules, agricultural equipment for sowing, washing machines, and furniture. The decision was approved by Decree 292 issued by of the Council of Ministers of Belarus on May 26," Kachka said on Facebook. The decision will take effect ten months after publication and will remain in effect for six months, he said.
"Such actions are unfounded and discriminatory. Individual licensing means manual management of the import of Ukrainian products into Belarus. The government is holding consultations with manufacturers on dealing with the negative consequences of the discriminatory actions taken by the Belarusian government," Kachka said.
For his part, Guryanov explained that the Council of Ministers decision of May 26, 2021, to license the import of certain types of goods was due to Ukraine having "recently systematically violated the free trade regime spelt out in the CIS free trade zone law.
"We have all agreed a long time ago that a free trade zone involves free movement of goods. The agreement does not involve imposing any tariff restrictions on members' products in any form or stipulation. Last December Ukraine stunned Belarus by deciding to impose a de facto duty on certain types of Belarusian metal products under a pretext of supposedly unfriendly and discriminatory steps by the Republic of Belarus," he recalled.
In May Ukraine's inter-agency commission for international trade imposed further duties on Belarusian wheel products, and that despite "the Republic of Belarus having supplied, quite efficiently, passenger equipment to various towns across Ukraine by offering flexible financing tools, good prices, good technology. On the one hand, we were puzzled; on the other, this was yet another step which we think is wrong from the standpoint of free trade," he said.
Belarus has long been analyzing all of Ukraine measures imposed on Belarus, he said. "I can state that, aside from those two examples I mentioned, Ukraine currently has eight anti-dumping and special protective measures in regard to Belarus. They involve anti-dumping duties on matches, starch, construction material, cement, incandescent bulbs, i.e. a whole list of products which falls under restrictions as Belarusian export to Ukraine," he said.
Belarus repeatedly offered Ukraine (including at the level of the prime minister as a co-chairman of the intergovernmental commission and at the level of the foreign trade regulator, which in Belarus is the Foreign Ministry) holding consultations, using mechanisms to remove barriers, clarifying the sides' positions, Guryanov said.
"Never once did Ukraine show a desire to respond to our requests and only in isolated cases, already after the decisions were made regarding restrictive measures against Belarus, we were simply told that at some point the Republic of Belarus' long-time decisions started to be seen as unfriendly and discriminatory and for that reason it became necessary to restrict our supplies to Ukraine," he said.
Belarus took measures, which effectively limit imports from Ukraine through additional controls, and then only temporarily, as per the international trade rules that are in active use in many countries, he said.
"We are ready for talks any moment. We once worked with Ukraine quite actively to remove barriers to mutual trade. For some reason, now these barriers began to re-appear, not at our initiative," he said.
During the bilateral consultations "Ukraine hinted that what it saw as unfriendly and discriminatory measures on Belarus' part were, for some reason, certain decisions made by the Eurasian Economic Union, which is now the responsibility of five countries, not just Belarus," the diplomat said.
"Yet the counter- or some unfriendly restrictive measures needed to be taken exclusively against Belarus. For the simple reason that we are still not a member of the World Trade Organization. Which apparently means that it is okay to punish us in breach of free trade principles, in breach of international agreements which create conditions for normal competition, for normal export-import operations. So, once again: this is nothing to do with the current souring of our relations, aviation issues, and so on. This is down to the trade negotiations, pure and simple, which were supposed to lead us to remove the barriers, as I exhorted our Ukrainian colleagues to do," the first deputy minister said.