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DTI: GSP+ renewal on Brussels agenda

Manila Times - 9 December 2022

DTI: GSP+ renewal on Brussels agenda
By Eireene Jairee Gomez

The Philippines remains committed to reapplying for Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) privileges from the European Union once these expire next year, the Trade department said on Thursday.

The issue will be raised when President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. visits Brussels next week for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-European Union (Asean-EU) Summit, Trade Undersecretary Carol Sanchez said.

A business program for the President has been organized alongside Marcos’ participation in the summit. "This includes roundtable and business meetings with select European companies that have major presence or have plans to do business in the Philippines," Sanchez added.

"On the GSP plus, while the Philippines awaits the resumption of the Philippines-EU FTA (free trade agreement) negotiations, we remain committed to maintain our EU GSP+ beneficiary status," she said.

"With the expiration of the current scheme in 2023, the Philippines will likewise apply under the new scheme," Sanchez continued.

To be eligible for the GSP+ program, countries must uphold 27 international conventions on human rights, labor, environment and climate protection, and good governance.

Last month, EU Ambassador Luc Veron said that the bloc was looking forward to "further movement by the Philippines implementing its commitment on the GSP+ conventions."

He tied it to the proposed establishment of a long-proposed bilateral trade agreement, saying progress would make the resumption of negotiations easier.

Negotiations for the EU-Philippines FTA started in 2016. The last round of talks was held in Cebu City in 2017.

Sanchez said that Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual would be pursuing the GSP+ and FTA agenda during Marcos’ trip.

"Our long-term goal is to resume the PH-EU FTA negotiations. The Philippines-EU FTA is the more important and permanent mechanism in [the] Philippines’ relationship with the EU, and the GSP+ is just a stepping stone toward it," she said.

Establishing a trade deal, Sanchez noted, would be consistent with the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

"Similarly, the Philippines can support the EU’s goal to diversify suppliers and enhance its cooperation on supply chains in the Asean region," she said.

Sanchez added that "the FTA will be a stable platform to optimize the benefits of the large market in the EU and can take advantage of [the] Philippines’ existing FTA network by increasing its investments in the manufacturing sector and accessing the big market in the region."

"There is a big opportunity for EU businesses to expand in the Philippines — not just to access our huge domestic market — but equally important, to use the Philippines as a base for manufacturing."

Trade in goods between the Philippines and the EU reached 15.2 billion euros in 2021, while the trade in services reached 4.9 billion euros, according to the European Commission. It also said that the EU was the largest foreign investor in the Philippines, with a direct investment stock of 14.4 billion euros last year.

The Trade department has also reported that the Philippines posted a record GSP+ utilization rate of 76 percent in 2021, and that the country benefitted from increased market access to the EU since its successful application in 2014.

 source: Manila Times