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Following Russia's military aggression against Ukraine, the EU has imposed sanctions on Belarus.
The EU has not yet ratified the bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement concluded with Belarus in 1995, due to Belarus' lack of commitment to democracy, and political and civil rights.
The bilateral trade and economic relations therefore remain covered by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded by the European Community with the Soviet Union in 1989, and subsequently endorsed by Belarus.
Belarus applied for membership of the WTO in 1993. Its accession process is still ongoing, but has been suspended following Belarus’ involvement in Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.
In June 2007 the EU withdrew its trade preferences to Belarus under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences, in response to Belarus' violations of the core principles of the International Labour Organisation.
Belarus’ exports to the EU are therefore subject to import tariffs at the standard non-preferential rate. Once Belarus has shown that it respects basic trade union rights, the EU is ready to reverse its decision.
A Dialogue on Trade was established in October 2016, in order to facilitate exchanges on trade-related matters at experts’ level. The dialogue took place twice a year in July and December up to July 2020. Since then, the dialogue has been suspended, due to the significant deterioration in the human rights, democracy and rule of law situation in Belarus in the run-up, conduct and aftermath of the 9 August 2020 presidential elections, which the EU declared neither free nor fair.
Please note that the following figures reflect the situation in 2021, before recent trade-related sanctions began to have an effect.
- In 2021, the EU was Belarus' second main trade partner, representing 19.9% of the country's overall trade in goods. Russia was Belarus' first trading partner, with 49.0% of Belarus' international trade.
- EU-Belarus bilateral trade in goods declined in 2020 by 7.3%, mainly due to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. 2021 saw a substantial recovery. Bilateral trade increased by 27.0%, reaching €12.9 billion, although this only represents growth of 13.3% over the past 10 years.
- Belarus' main exports to the EU (before the current sanctions were introduced) were wood (23.2% of total exports), mineral products (21.6%) and base metals (15.3%). The EU’s main exports to Belarus were machinery (31.2% of total exports), chemicals (15.4%) and transport equipment (12.3%).
The EU and Belarus
Although trade between the EU and Belarus has grown in recent years, the EU has suspended moves towards closer economic partnership with Belarus until political and civil conditions improve in Belarus.
The EU has also introduced an Outward Processing Trade regime for Belarus. This regime provides for additional import quota amounts for textiles and clothing manufacturers within the European Union so they can produce garments in Belarus that will return to the EU after processing.
Belarus trade restrictions
In addition to the sanctions imposed against Belarus, including both import and export restrictions, since 2010 the EU has imposed unilateral import quotas for Belarus covering trade in textile and clothing products. The unilateral quotas replaced the EU-Belarus textile agreement that Belarus no longer wanted to renew after joining the Customs Union with Russia and Kazakhstan.
Committees and Dialogues
All bilateral dialogue with Belarus is currently suspended.
Trading with Belarus
- Trade with Belarus is currently heavily restricted by EU sanctions (see news below; 18 March 2022)
- Importing into the EU from Belarus
- EU trade defence measures on imports from Belarus
- Exporting from the EU to Belarus
- Trade relations are part of the EU's overall political and economic relations with Belarus
Today, the Commission published a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on export-related restrictions concerning dual-use goods and advance technology items.