On June 11, an online consultation initiated by the Coordination Council for Production and Logistics Issues of the Ukrainian Business and Trade Association (UBTA) was held. This discussion was caused by the introduction of an individual licensing regime on import for a number of Ukrainian goods for 6 months by the Republic of Belarus.

Representatives of the ZED Association, the Association of International Road Carriers of Ukraine (AsMAP), the Ukrlegprom Association, and the Association of International Freight Forwarders of Ukraine (AIFFU) also joined the discussion.

Representatives of the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine, the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine also took place. The business was represented by Obolon Corporation.

“UBTA, as a business association intended to protect Ukrainian exporters on foreign markets, has already received numerous inquiries from its members and other companies who are extremely concerned about the situation related to Belarus. We are grateful to the representatives of the Ministries who joined the event and we hope that these consultations will shed light on the problem and help to effectively solve the issue of exports to Belarus”, said Olena Kudliak, Executive Director, UBTA, in her opening speech.

The issue has caused significant concern among the Ukrainian business community. The Belarus regime of individual licensing for the import of goods from Ukraine creates significant obstacles for the shortest and the cheapest way the Ukrainian goods could reach the ultimate consumer. Serhiy Svystil, the Chairman of the Coordination Council for Production and Logistics Issues, UBTA, noted that this should be discussed at the highest level possible and be resolved in a dialogue between both business and government, respectively.

Kostiantyn Savchenko, Advisor to the President of AsMAP of Ukraine, as a representative of one of the large-scale associations of carriers, identified three main issues to be taken into account when solving the problem of exports to the Republic of Belarus. First, it is necessary to establish the status of the draft law “On Ratification of the Protocol between the Government of Ukraine and the Government of the Republic of Belarus on the Introduction of Amendments into the Agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the Government of the Republic of Belarus on International Road Transport dated December 17, 1992”. Second, it is necessary to clarify the situation regarding crossing the Ukraine-Belarus border, because as of today, Belarus has closed its territory to citizens of other states. Third, there is a need to find alternative routes for Ukrainian carriers to access the Baltic States and Finland, as the main routes to the northern region lie through Belarus.

The Ukrainian consumer industry was also concerned about the import of raw materials from the Republic of Belarus, on which we are partially dependent. Tetyana Izovit, the President and the Chairman of the Board, Ukrlegprom Association, noted that this parameter should be taken into account when developing and introducing any economic levers of influence on Belarus. In turn, the representative of Ukrlegprom expressed her readiness to join the process of building relations with foreign partners.

Business, in its turn, is determined and noted that a similar situation took place in 2014 during the active phase of aggression by the Russian Federation. “Obolon Concern cannot calmly keep watching the priority market for many Ukrainian manufacturers is closing. We believe that it is necessary to start negotiating with the Republic of Belarus, so as not to repeat the experience of 2014 when they were forced to almost suspend trade relations with Ukraine due to Russian influence. We call for a simultaneous package of sanctions on the part of Ukraine, in case of failure of negotiations with our Belarus colleagues,” stated Oleksandr Chub, Foreign Economic Affairs Director, Obolon Concern.

Government officials followed a more consistent and diplomatic approach to resolving the trade dispute. Mykhailo Harmash, Adviser to the Department of International Financial Institutions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, noted that the pause in trade relations was also caused by political issues. He informed the online event participants that consultations on the situation around Ukravtoprom were underway and that anti-dumping investigations against Belarus had been cancelled, but this had not changed the situation.

Oleksiy Rozhkov, Director of the Department of International Cooperation in Economy, Trade and Agriculture, the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine, stated the failure of effective dialogue between Belarus and Ukraine and he believes that increasing sanctions on part of the European Union and the US can improve Ukraine's negotiating position with Belarus. “We are forced to acknowledge that Ukraine is on a pause in bilateral relations. At present, the government cannot continue the dialogue without a clear political directive from the ministries involved in trade issues. But we should monitor the situation and prevent the aggravation of the trade problem,“ Rozhkov said.

Hamlet Pohosian, the representative of the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine, Director General of the Road and Electric Urban Transport Directorate, described the logistical problem arising from the Belarus restrictive measures: “As of today, we have not ratified the protocol on the freight transport liberalization with Minsk and are in a great need of transport permits not only for transit through their territory but we also need some extra special permits to carry freight both to the Baltic States and to conduct bilateral transportation with Belarus. The flow of freights cannot be stopped due to economic factors, but it has actually been stopped due to political reasons.”

Summing up the consultations, Serhiy Svystil noted the importance of bringing the trade issue with Belarus to a higher level of consultations and said that in the future, many more participants will be involved in communications and actions. The proposed plan of further actions includes drawing letters to the relevant Ministries with attached results of discussions and consolidated data on companies that need to undergo the licensing procedure. Public officials, in their turn, called on business representatives to record individual licensing processes on the Belarus side and provide information to them in case of refusals or ignored requests.