Dec 022014

Embassy of the Philippines to Belgium and Mission of the Philippines to the European Union Ambassador Victoria Bataclan (right) and staff

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The Philippines is hopeful to get on December 18 the European Union’s (EU) approval on its application to the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) +, a trade regulation where a number of Philippine exports will benefit from duty-free treatment on EU market. 

The country is a current beneficiary of GSP where 23 percent of all Philippine exports are duty-free while some enjoy reduced tariff. Under the new GSP+ scheme, EU shall provide additional trade preferences where from the existing 23 percent, some products will enjoy tariff cuts down to 0 percent.

“We have been lobbying for the country’s application in the EU Parliament and we need not more than 376 votes among the 751 Parliament members in order to be approved,” Mission of the Philippines to the European Union head, Ambassador Victoria Bataclan, said in an interview.

Once granted, GSP+ is expected to generate 600 million euros for the Philippines in the next three years and shall largely benefit our export products from the fisheries and garment industries. 

The government and EU also estimates that GSP+ could expand exports to EU by 12 period and generate around 200,000 additional jobs. Additional 6,000 product lines are also expected to be generated, added Bataclan.

Zafrullah Masahud, commercial counselor privy to the ongoing negotiation, said this trade agreement is one-way and is therefore not reciprocal. Once approved, the Philippines’s capacity to qualify to the said agreement will be monitored by EU through the use of treaty bodies and universal peer reviews. 

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Among the requirements for the country to qualify to GSP+ is the implementation of 27 core international conventions on human, labor rights, environment and good governance which the country has already been observing.

Early negotiations on FTA

While the country is open on negotiating for a free trade agreement (FTA) with EU, Bataclan said that it is still in its early stages and scoping is yet to be done in the next two years. 

A group of DTI officials arrived in Brussels last week for the scoping phase with EU representatives for the possibility of an FTA.  

Equity cap on foreign investments will also be a key point of discussion to allow for more foreign participation on investments in the Philippines.  

“FTA is trade and investment-creating. We want investment but we have laws to respect,” Bataclan said.

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