The US government approved the Philippines’ request for another round of the US Generalized System of Preferences scheme starting this year, the Trade Department said Tuesday.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the government was now assured of the continuity of the program that would benefit Filipino exporters to the US.
“There is a pending proposal from the legislative side of the US government to increase the validity of the [GSP+] program to three years. I heard the US House of Representatives already approved the amendment for a three-year renewal. We have yet to hear from the Senate,” he said.
The amendment to the program would involve not only a three-year renewal but could also include retroactive effectivity.
The Philippines’ contract for the US GSP expired in December 2017. Preparations for the petition for renewal started as early as November 2017.
The scheme went into force in 1974 and was subject to periodical renewal. It provides duty-free access to about 3,500 eligible products for beneficiary developing countries like the Philippines.
Lopez said the Philippine government was also working on expanding the coverage of Philippine products under the program to include garments, footwear and bags.
The Philippine government plans to revive the garments and textiles sector whose exports decreased from an annual average of $2.4 billion between 1995 and 2006 to an average of $1.6 billion over the past five years.
The industry currently employs around 300,000 workers and has the potential to increase employment to over 4 million if the Philippines can attract more investments in the garments and leather goods manufacturing in the country, the department said.
“We will be also pushing for the inclusion of more agro-based products such as fruits and the likes,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the possible expansion of US GSP to US GSP+ could increase interest, for both parties, to pursue the possibility of having a more permanent FTA with the US which is now at exploratory stage.