The UK and Ukraine can both greatly benefit from increased trade post-Brexit — but only if the right trade deal is done, Bate Toms, Chairman of the British Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a letter to The Financial Times.
The recent suggestion that the UK quickly roll over EU trade treaties into UK treaties is wholly inappropriate for a UK-Ukraine trade treaty, as this will needlessly limit UK access to food. While quick UK rollover of other EU treaties, primarily concerning manufacturing where the EU obtained good terms, is acceptable, this approach is not appropriate for a free trade agreement with Ukraine. Instead, Ukraine is the only country for which the UK should be able to obtain much better trade terms, Toms wrote to FT.
Importing high quality, lower cost food from Ukraine is "exactly the type of benefit for UK consumers" that Brexit is supposed to bring, the letter says.
The EU treaty restricts EU, and thus still UK, access to Ukrainian food, limiting price competition with German, French and other EU farmers. The UK depends on food imports, already importing over half its food, and with its increasing population needs to substantially increase food imports, as it cannot readily increase its own agricultural production. (UK farming is subsidized, so Ukrainian food imports compete only with foreign farm imports.)
"Ukraine is the principal available food resource to lower UK food costs and addresses Britain's future food needs. Based on massive investment in modern agriculture over three decades, Ukraine is already the world’s second largest grain exporter (based on wheat, corn, and barley). It has one-third of the world’s chernozem, the famous “black earth” that is the best soil. As the largest country in Europe, it has much more land to cultivate and increase production using IT-mechanised, low cost basis farming. Ukraine is also relatively close, so Ukrainian food can be quickly transported to the UK over land," the letter reads.
The UK should, as a priority, conclude a UK-Ukraine FTA eliminating restrictions on food imports, the author stresses, adding that otherwise China, Ukraine's largest trading partner, along with Japan, South Korea and other Asian consumers aggressively pursuing food in Ukraine, will tie up most Ukrainian food supplies.