• US trade office allows duty-free entry of Filipino-made travel goods


    THE Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has approved the country’s application for inclusion in the expanded new general system of preferences (GSP) scheme, a top Philippine trade official said on Friday.

    The new GSP program added 23 tariff lines, allowing travel goods such as apparel, bags, wallets and backpacks, luggage, and sport and travel bags made in the Philippines to enter the US market duty-free.

    With the new GSP scheme, the duty-free treatment could increase Philippine travel goods exports to the US by $100 million annually for the first five years, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

    Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez had spearheaded the Philippine advocacy of GSP inclusion and had consistently taken this up with counterparts from the USTR.

    “This expansion will boost the local manufacturing industry and eventually provide more employment opportunities for Filipinos, creating 70,000 new jobs and increasing our GDP” or gross domestic product by 0.5 percent, Lopez told reporters in a Viber message.

    According to the US International Trade Center (ITC), the US imported an estimated total of $232 million from the 23 tariff lines of travel goods from the Philippines in 2016, making the country the fifth largest import source of travel goods in the US.

    Meanwhile, all US GSP Beneficiary Developing Countries, effective today (July 1) will enjoy duty-free treatment for a number of their travel goods exports to the US.

    In 2015, former US President Barack Obama signed the reauthorized US GSP as a tool that helps eligible countries to expand their exports to the US.

    “The inclusion of travel goods into the GSP will certainly provide benefits to our exporters, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises [MSMEs] and export-oriented agri-businesses utilizing banana and other vegetable fibers and community based industries in the various regions of the country,” DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said.

    Lopez added that he “looks forward to this positive development as a much needed push for expanding employment opportunities and improving countryside development. This will also help contribute to the
    President Rodrigo Duterte administration’s thrust of pursuing inclusive and sustainable growth thru job generation and entrepreneurship.”

    The US GSP seeks to promote economic growth and development in developing countries through preferential and duty-free entry to the US market of products from 122 designated beneficiary countries and territories, including the Philippines.

    In 2016, the US was the Philippines third major trading partner, the second biggest export market, and third top import supplier.

    A number of US companies are currently manufacturing travel goods in the Philippines, including Coach, Tory Burch, and Michael Kors.


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