PH bid for EU preference status gets big boost – Alcala

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The Philippines’ bid for inclusion in the European Union’s (EU) Generalized System of Preferences (GSP+) received a big boost after EU leaders reaffirmed their commitment for a closer partnership with Manila, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Thursday.

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Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told reporters that Manila’s qualification as a beneficiary of the GSP+ trading arrangement will pave the way for more export opportunities for Filipino food producers and entrepreneurs, particularly the tuna industry.

Alcala explained that the GSP+ program will cover more products at zero duties, with tuna and other agricultural commodities expected to benefit the most, along with textiles and garments, footwear, umbrellas and chemicals.

At present, canned tuna exports to the EU – considered to be the world’s biggest single market – are subject to a 24 percent net tariff while those from export rivals such as the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries have been enjoying zero tariff.

“With GSP+, we hope to improve our share of the EU’s fresh and processed tuna market as it will give our products a better fighting chance,” said Alcala.

The Philippine government is currently seeking to avail of a “more generous” preferential trading regime, which provides recipient-countries with larger product coverage at zero tariffs compared to the standard GSP.

“More food export products translate to more dynamic agro-fishery enterprises that provide better livelihood and income opportunities in the countryside,” the DA chief added.

Filipino exporters currently use the regular GSP, allowing them to ship various agriculture, industrial and textile products to the trade bloc at either reduced or zero duties.

Alcala said that the country’s bid for inclusion in the GSP+ program received a big boost recently after a meeting in Brussels, Belgium between President Aquino and European Commission president José Manuel Barroso.

In that meeting, President Aquino and his EU counterpart reiterated their commitment to closer partnerships, while recognizing the role of GSP in improving Philippines-EU trade relations, Alcala said.

Alcala, who took part in that meeting, said that President Aquino also used the meeting as an opportunity to assure President Barroso and other EU leaders that the Philippines is actively undertaking measures to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing or IUUF through the lead effort of the DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

Ratifying and implementing 27 core international conventions on the environment, governance, human and labor rights, and sustainable development comprises the criteria on granting GSP+ status.

The government estimates that under a GSP+ regime, Philippine exports to the EU could increase by 611.8 million euros ($773.1 million), or nearly 12 percent higher than in 2012 when exports to the EU amounted to 1.08 billion euros under the regular GSP.

According to the Department of Trade of Industry, the projected increase in exports will translate to 267,587 jobs both in the agriculture and manufacturing sector.  DTI spearheads the Philippine campaign for GSP+, in tandem with DA and other government agencies and the private sector. The government hopes to obtain the GSP+ status before the end of the year.

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