EU trade benefits require improved human rights situation

EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore criticised that the two convictions in the so-called “war on drugs” under ex-President Duterte are “not enough” to justify an improvement of the human rights situation, considering the at least 6,000 extrajudicial killings (EJK) that occured in total. In addition, Gilmore warned that the Philippines risks to lose economic trade benefits under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) if the government does not ensure compliance with international human rights standards. After all, the Philippines is one of the three largest state beneficiaries of the GSP+.

Joseph Purugganan, co-founder of the Trade Justice Pilipinas Network and director of the think tank Focus on the Global South, says the program can be a good tool to push for human rights compliance and implementation in the Philippines. He fears, however, that the EU is caught in a dilemma between its commercial and economic interests and its human rights agenda. If the Philippines continues to receive economic benefits under the GSP+, despite significant human rights violations, it will weaken the program itself and also weaken international pressure to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines, Purugganan said. 

The EU is the Philippines’ fourth largest trading partner and currently receives trade benefits under the GSP+ for the import of at least 6,200 Philippine products. The Philippines’ trade preferences under the GSP+ expire at the end of 2023; a renewal is currently being decided. 

The EU supports the ICC investigation against Rodrigo Duterte, affirmed EU Special Representative Gilmore. Gilmore also stressed: “The International Criminal Court is a complementary court and it only comes into play where a country is either unwilling or unable to deal with issues itself, issues of accountability and to bring people to justice.” On March 30, 2023, President Ferdinand Marcos declared that the Philippines would end communication with the ICC, after it rejected the government’s petition to drop the case against Duterte.

Gilmore visited the Philippines from March 28 to 30, 2023, and met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, the Human Rights Office of the Philippine National Police, and several EJK victims’ groups.


Photo © Christian Lue on Unsplash

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