GSP review on PH labor rights closed

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THE Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has concluded a review of the Philippines related to labor rights under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), noting reforms implemented by the government.

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“The US acknowledges our initiatives toward creating decent jobs and upholding workers’ rights. The closing of the GSP country review on the Philippines is indeed a major milestone for Philippine trade and labor,” Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. said in a statement on Friday.

The USTR on Wednesday announced the termination of review, saying its decision was “ . . . based on progress by the Philippine government in addressing worker rights issues in that country, including through reforms of labor laws and regulations.”

The GSP aims to promote economic growth and development through preferential and duty-free entry of products from 122 designated beneficiary countries and territories that include the Philippines.

The preferential treatment of goods is, however, tied to certain conditions that include the protection of intellectual property rights, upholding of workers’ rights and moves against child labor.

The list of GSP articles and eligible countries can be modified in response to petitions and the results of annual reviews. The GSP country review on Philippine labor standards and practices, which began in 2008, focused on progress on labor-related issues and labor reform legislations.

In 2013, Philippine exports under the US GSP reached $1.256 billion, making it the 5th largest user of the program. Philippine exports under the US GSP include measuring and checking instruments, appliances and machines ($78.2 million), other cane sugar ($74.8 million), telescopic sights for rifles not designed for use with infrared light ($61.9 million), other acyclic monoamines and their derivatives ($60.4 million), and insulated electric conductors ($60 million).

The US GSP program covers 5,000 products or tariff lines, roughly 47 percent of the 10,600 US tariff lines.

Other  products are prohibited by law from receiving GSP treatment, including most textiles, watches, footwear, handbags, luggage, flat goods, work gloves, and other leather apparel. In addition, any other articles determined to be import-sensitive products such as steel, glass, and electronics cannot be made eligible under the GSP.

The review was at the forefront of Trade department-led meetings between the US and the Philippines and in various bilateral talks, including representations by the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. led by Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr.

“The hard work and excellent collaboration among the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. made this possible,” Cristobal said.

The US GSP program was instituted on January 2, 1976, and authorized under the US Trade Act of 1974 for 10 years. It has since been renewed periodically by the US Congress, with the current program in place until December 2017.

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