Philippines hopeful on result of EU GSP + review

By Richmond Mercurio

MANILA, Philippines — With the outcome of the review of the European Union General System of Preferences Plus (EU GSP+) expected to come out this month, the Philippines remains hopeful the regional bloc considered the country’s case objectively and retain its current set of trade privileges.

“Of course we want the retention of the GSP+. We’re hopeful it would be retained,” Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said.

“I am hopeful that they looked at it with a sense of balance. That they looked at the data more rather than the political noise. In short, if they hear these statements, we hope that they won’t focus on these but instead look at the report we submitted,” he added.

With President Duterte’s controversial war on drugs being one of the key concerns in the review, Rodolfo said the Philippines in its report provided the EU with all the necessary information such as how the campaign is being implemented and what are being done if there were untoward incidents.

“We have actively engaged the EU Commission in terms of the monitoring requirements and we have explained with them diligently, provided them with all information, so at the end of the day we are expecting a balanced report that is based on facts rather than on political noise,” Rodolfo said.

“But at the end of the day, no matter how good the report we submitted, it’s a political process,” he added.

Rodolfo said the country also had its shortcomings in the past and these were highlighted by the EU in its first GSP+ review a few years ago.

The EU GSP+ program allows the country to export 6,274 eligible products duty-free to the EU market.

The country’s beneficiary status under the program, however, necessitates the implementation of the 27 international treaties and conventions on human rights, labor rights, environment and governance.

Members of the EU Parliament have earlier expressed concern about the alleged cases of extrajudicial cases in the country, leading some to speculate that this would result in the removal of the country’s trade privileges with the EU.

The Philippine government, led by Lopez and Special Envoy to the EU Edgardo Angara, met with trade institutions and parliament ministers in Brussels in September last year to give a clearer picture of the real situation in the Philippines, particularly on EU’s concern on alleged violations of human rights in the country in relation to President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.

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