DTI: GSP Renewal + on the Brussels Agenda

The Philippine Department of Commerce said Thursday that the Philippines remains committed to re-applying for EU General Plan of Additional Preferences (GSP+) concessions once those concessions expire next year.

Undersecretary of Commerce Carol Sanchez said the issue would come up when President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. visits Brussels next week for an ASEAN-EU summit.

A business program for the President was organized along with Marcos’ participation in the Summit. “This includes round tables and business meetings with selected European companies that have a significant presence or have plans to do business in the Philippines,” Sanchez added.

“Regarding GSP-plus, while the Philippines awaits the resumption of the Philippine-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, we remain committed to maintaining our EU-GSP beneficiary status,” she said.

“As the current scheme expires in 2023, the Philippines will similarly apply under the new scheme,” Sanchez continued.

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To be eligible for the GSP+, countries must adhere to 27 international agreements on human rights, labour, the environment, climate protection, and good governance.

Last month, EU Ambassador Luc Ferron said the bloc was looking forward to “further action by the Philippines to implement its commitments on the GSP+ agreements”.

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

Negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EU and the Philippines began in 2016. The last round of talks was held in Cebu City in 2017.

Sanchez said Commerce Secretary Alfredo Pascual will pursue the GSP+ and FTA agenda during Marcos’ trip.

“Our long-term goal is to resume negotiations of the PH-EU Free Trade Agreement. The Philippine-EU Free Trade Agreement is the most important and enduring mechanism in [the] The Philippines’ relationship with the EU and GSP is just a stepping stone towards it.”

Sanchez indicated that concluding a trade agreement would be consistent with the European Union’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Similarly, the Philippines can support the EU’s goal of diversifying suppliers and strengthening its cooperation in supply chains in the ASEAN region,” she said.

Sanchez added that “the free trade agreement will be a stable platform to improve the benefits of the large market in the European Union and can benefit from [the] The existing free trade network in the Philippines by increasing its investments in the manufacturing sector and accessing the large market in the region.”

“There is a huge opportunity for EU companies to expand into the Philippines – not only to gain access to our huge domestic market – but equally important, to use the Philippines as a manufacturing base.”

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

The Department of Commerce also reported that the Philippines recorded a record GSP+ utilization rate of 76 percent in 2021, and that the country has benefited from increased market access in the EU since its successful implementation in 2014.

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