The Polish government and the European Commission have reached agreement on liberalising their trade in food products, following 18 months of negotiations that should pave the way for Poland to enter the European Union, maybe in the next five years.

Under the deal, both sides have agreed to scrap all trade restrictions for a range of products, which include wheat, rape-seed, butter and sugar: the so-called double-zero option. Poland has also unilaterally agreed to remove tariff and quota restrictions on EU imports for foodstuffs that it does not itself produce, such as olive oil and other Mediterranean products.

Meanwhile there are a range of other goods where both sides have agreed to reduce, but nor remove, import restrictions. These include beef, milk powder and pigmeat, where the EU has agreed to scrap its export refunds and the Poles to slash their previously high level of import duty.

EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler said: “I am glad that we finally struck a deal. Double-zero means double benefits for Poland and the EU. This is good for trade, this is good for the Polish enlargement preparations.”

He said that the agreement has “the deepest and widest coverage” of any recent deals between Brussels and eastern European countries seeking to join the EU: a surprise, given the general hostility in the Polish farming industry to the reduction of protection.

Indeed, last year the Polish government actually raised tariffs on a number of food products. The Commission announced that Warsaw has now agreed to reduce these duties, at least to their previous levels.

By Keith Nuthall