Brussels: Philippine delegation seeks renewal of EU trade preferences

On October 27, 2022, an interparliamentary meeting was held in Brussels with a Philippine delegation. One key topic was the status of the Philippines regarding its EU trade preferences granted under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+); its current cycle will expire at the end of 2023.

Under the GSP+, the EU grants the Philippines tariff preferences for certain export products to the EU if international standards and principles related to human rights are respected, including labour rights, environmental protection, and good governance. Currently, 26% of total Philippine exports enjoy trade preferences through the GSP+. Suspending the process could have an impact on the Philippines’ economic competitiveness and labor market.

Alfredo Pascual, Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), urged the EU Parliament Committee on International Trade in Brussel to extend the GSP+ status of the Philippines. Due to the human rights violations in the anti-drug campaign or the so-called “war on drugs” under former President Rodrigo Duterte, the GSP+ trade preferences had come under considerable threat.

The DTI stressed that the new Marcos administration has already made “significant progress” with regards to the human rights situation in the Philippines, such as developing a new approach to the government’s anti-drug campaign that focuses on prevention and rehabilitation.

Due to a reform, the granting of trade preferences in the next GSP+ cycle will include stricter requirements starting in 2024, stressed Claudio Francavilla, EU representative of Human Rights Watch. Countries who are currently holding the GSP+ status will be given a two-year transition period to meet the additional requirements. It will be possible to re-apply for the new GSP+ cycle until December 31, 2025. Preferences will remain in effect throughout the application process.

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