Human, labor rights priority in EU’s GSP+

Published by rudy Date posted on September 26, 2021

by Louella Desiderio – The Philippine Star, 26 Sep 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The European Union has emphasized the successful implementation of the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), along with respect for human and labor rights, as a priority in its trade relations with the Philippines.

The EU also expressed hope proposed tax reforms and proposals to amend the Public Service Act (PSA) and Retail Trade Liberalization (RTL) Act would be passed for the country to attract more European investors.

Speaking at the European Philippine Business Summit, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron said the GSP+ is an important competitive advantage for the Philippines since it is the only country in Southeast Asia enjoying this trade preference.

“We look forward to continue a fruitful collaboration with the Philippines for the correct implementation of the EU GSP+ for the years to come especially in respect for human rights convention by the Philippines. Let me be clear on this, for the EU, the successful implementation GSP+ with its implication with human rights, labor rights, good governance and environmental protection is currently the first priority in EU-Philippine trade policy relations,” he said.

The GSP+ allows 6,274 products from the Philippines to enter the EU at zero tariff.

As GSP+ beneficiary countries have to implement international conventions related to human rights, labor rights, environmental protection and good governance, the EU has earlier raised concerns on the human rights situation in the Philippines including crimes in relation to the war on drugs.

Despite enjoying GSP+, Veron said trade between the EU and the Philippines is still far from its potential and lags behind its neighbors.

He said trade between the EU and Vietnam is three times higher, while trade between the bloc and Thailand is 2.5 times bigger than EU-Philippines trade.

He said trade between the EU and the Philippines declined 17 percent last year from 15 billion euros in 2019.

He also said ongoing policy reforms in the country, when fully implemented, would benefit businesses.

In particular, he said the EU is hoping to see the full implementation of the Customs Modernization Act, Ease of Doing Business, and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act.

“We also wish for the completion of the tax reform package, the passage of laws to liberalize foreign investment, to amend PSA and RTL,” he said.

“We wish for the Philippines to get more European investors to enter the Philippine market to create more quality jobs and to contribute to the country’s economic recovery,” he added.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said the Philippines continues to engage with the EU in the monitoring of the country’s compliance to the EU GSP+.

“Despite all the noise you hear, politically, despite everything you hear, the Philippines remains to be engaged at the technical level with respect to the monitoring of our compliance to the EU GSP+ commitments…That is very important because that is the main venue for the Philippine government and the European Commission can have frank exchange with respect to actual numbers, actual station on the ground,” he said.

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