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EU takes second look at Manila’s trade perks

THE top diplomat of the European Union said Monday a monitoring team is scheduled to arrive by the end of January to assess if the Philippines still qualifies for trade incentives under GSP+ program, which is anchored on the country’s compliance with international agreements, including those on human rights.

“There is a process and that is ongoing,” said EU Ambassador Franz Jessen, during a book launching to mark the 25th anniversary of the EU in the Philippines.

“We have an ongoing monitoring of the conventions… and I will not predict how it will come out in the end,” Jessen said.

European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen
The EU-Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) allows the Philippines to export 6,274 eligible products duty-free access to the EU market.

The Philippines has been exporting to EU products such as crude coconut oil, canned tuna, pneumatic tires, spectacle lenses, relays, and preserved fruits under GSP+.

But last year, a senior trade diplomat warned that the Philippines that it may lose the GSP+ due to Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs.

The senior trade diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Philippines could lose the GSP+ privileges, which brought total exports to the EU to €743 million during the first six months of 2015.

The source said President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against drugs which led to a spate of extrajudicial killings may lead to a withdrawal of trade preferences by the EU.

“The Philippines will definitely lose this privilege because of the summary killings of drug suspects of the Duterte administration,” the senior diplomat said.

The Philippines was granted beneficiary country status under the EU-GSP+ in December 2014.

The source said to keep the privilege, the Philippines should make good progress in its implementation of its commitments to the 27 international treaties and conventions on human rights, labor rights, environment and governance.

Last month, the US-led Millennium Challenge Corp. deferred its decision on fresh funding for the Philippines, citing “significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties.”

On the other hand, Jessen said the ongoing cooperation with and support for the Philippines will not change, despite the administration’s new foreign policy. These include cooperation on trade and the judicial system.

Jessen also said the EU is also looking into a possibility of supporting the Philippines’ drug rehabilitation efforts.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of EU and Philippine relations, the EU and its member-states have published a coffee table book entitled “Ties that Bind,”  written by Manila Standard’s City Editor Joyce Pañares and Associate Editor Chin Wong.

“The 25-year book gives a very good overview of what we have been doing, how we work together and how we help each other and how we make sure that the Philippines gets the best possible future together with the EU,” Jessen said.

Topics: European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen , Philippines , GSP+ program , EU market , EU-Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+)
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