By Ron Bousso
LONDON, May 22 (Reuters) - The European Union has no plans to impose new duties on crude oil or diesel imports from Russia and the Middle East as it reviews its customs policy, officials said on Wednesday, alleviating market concerns.
Last year, the EU removed more than 50 countries from what it calls the generalised scheme of preferences (GSP), aimed at helping developing economies by scrapping import duties.
Starting January 1, 2014, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates will no longer benefit from the GSP status because they have been classified by the World Bank as high or upper middle income per capital states.
The upcoming changes have created uncertainty in the oil markets in the past few weeks as traders have speculated imports duties could be slapped on most imports, including jet fuel, diesel and crude oil.
Other oil exporters including Algeria and Libya have also been removed from the list.
However, crude oil will remain exempt from any duties, EU officials told Reuters.
'Crude oil imports are not subject to customs duties at the moment. That means that even after 1 January 2014, they will stay at zero for those countries losing GSP status,' one official said.
Diesel and most gasoil imports will also escape a 3.5 percent tax stipulated by EU regulations, a second official said.
'Duty rates on gasoil having a sulphur content not exceeding 0.2 percent will be suspended for an indefinite period,' the official said.
EU officials have already said jet fuel imports from the Middle East will escape the new duty.
The EU imported more than 6 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from the Middle East and Russia in 2012, according to traders and data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Diesel and gasoil imports from Russia account for more than half of the EU's total imports of nearly 1 million bpd in 2012, while Middle East imports were at around 5 percent of the total.
European refiners have been unable to meet the region's growing demand for diesel in recent years. However, the region is over-supplied in gasoline.
(Editing by James Jukwey) Keywords: EUROPE GASOIL RUSSIA/
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