Marcos wants trade preferences without human rights compliance

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. discussed at the EU-ASEAN Summit on December 12-14, 2022, also the Philippines’ status and new application for EU’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+). The GSP+ allows a duty-free import of over 6,000 products from the Philippines to EU member states. The granting of these preferences is conditioned to the Philippine government’s compliance with 27 international conventions on human rights, labor, good governance, and climate change.

Marcos commented with respect to the compliance of international human rights standards in an interview before attending the summit: “We’ll bring it up with the EU. I don’t think one thing should be related to the other.”

The current human rights situation in the Philippines shows “blatant violations,” underlined Claudio Francavilla from Human Rights Watch in Brussels. If the EU was serious about the GSP+, it would “publicly set clear, specific, time bound benchmarks for the Filipino government to comply with its end of the deal.” Because otherwise, this would be a “blank check for the Marcos administration, a green light for abuses, and a blow to the GSP+’s credibility,” Francavilla said.

In 2023, the Philippines must submit a new application to qualify for GSP+ trade benefits. Government data from 2019 shows that the EU is the Philippines’ single largest foreign investor. The EU Commission is expected to review the Philippines’ GSP+ status again in February 2023 and will soon publish its country assessments.

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