PHL to seek extension of EU GSP+ scheme, free trade agreement

KURT COTOAGA-UNSPLASH

THE DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the Philippines will seek to renew its participation in the European Union’s (EU) Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) and will continue to pursue a free trade agreement (FTA) with the trade bloc.  

Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said during a presentation to the EU Parliament Committee on International Trade in Brussels on Oct. 27 that the GSP+ scheme has helped improve socio-economic development in the Philippines.

The Philippines is in the last month of a monitoring process to renew its GSP+ participation.

The scheme is set to expire at the end of 2023. The European Commission proposed a revised scheme in September 2021 to better meet the needs of participating countries.

GSP+ allows the Philippines to enjoy zero tariffs on 6,274 products or 66% of all EU tariff lines. Some of the top Philippine GSP+ exports to the EU are crude coconut oil, vacuum cleaners, prepared or preserved tuna, hairdressing equipment, and prepared or preserved pineapple.

According to Mr. Pascual, the Philippines posted a record utilization rate for GSP+ of 76% in 2021.

He added that the Philippines has undergone “significant” changes such as the new government, a shift to a preventive and rehabilitative approach to illegal drugs, and a new commitment to work against climate change.  

The GSP+ scheme requires the Philippines to uphold commitments to 27 international conventions on human rights, labor, good governance, and environment.

The Philippines has been threatened with the loss of GSP+ status, with the European Parliament in February approving a resolution asking the previous government to address violence and human rights violations.

“Since the Philippines’ successful application to the GSP+ in 2014, the country has benefited from increased market access to the EU. Philippine exports to the EU rose from 5.3 billion euros in 2014 under the standard GSP to 7.77 billion euros in 2021,” the DTI said.

Mr. Pascual said that the Philippines is still keen on resuming negotiations for an FTA with the EU.

“The Philippines remains interested and therefore ready to work toward the resumption of negotiations of the Philippine-EU FTA. A 2020 study shows that 83% of German companies want to resume FTA negotiations, citing huge potential for EU companies, with the FTA positively affecting competitiveness,” Mr. Pascual said.

“The Philippines is an attractive investment destination given its solid macroeconomic fundamentals, enabling policy environment, and young and trainable workforce. With a stable and predictable political regime, our country is well-positioned in the Indo-Pacific to become a regional hub for manufacturing, innovation, training, and education,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave