Lopez optimistic PH will keep EU-GSP+ preferential status
MANILA, Philippines – After his meeting with a European Union (EU) trade official, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez voiced optimism about the likelihood that the EU will retain the Philippines among the countries enjoying perks under the EU General System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) program.
"Overall message is we are optimistic they would like to engage us," he said on Monday, December 25.
Lopez met with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in early December at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
He said that, based on discussions during their meeting, there is a high chance that the Philippines will not lose its GSP+ status since the EU is now "less concerned" with certain issues in the country, such as labor law compliance. (READ: Behind the scenes, PH scrambles to mend EU ties)
The EU will craft an assessment report on the Philippines' compliance with the 27 conventions in January. This will be submitted to the EU Parliament.
Under the GSP+, the Philippines is able to export more than 6,200 products to the EU duty-free. It is the only Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-state to enjoy the status.
But to benefit from GSP+, countries must have ratified 27 international conventions and must be properly implementing these agreements.
These conventions include those on human rights such as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Last March, EU lawmakers warned the Philippines that it could lose GSP+ status if the human rights situation in the country does not improve. (READ: Human rights part of trade conditions, EU reminds PH)
President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial drug war has claimed the lives of thousands and cast doubt on the integrity of the police force.
Duterte has bristled at any perception of assistance from a foreign country being tied to conditions, saying this impinges on the Philippines' sovereignty.
Because of his pronouncements, the Philippines has announced it would not accept any aid or grant that comes with conditions. (READ: EU defends aid with conditions: It's our taxpayers' money)
The EU is among the Philippines' biggest trading partners. In 2016, Philippine exports to the EU reached $6.8 billion.
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen expects the value of exports in 2017 to exceed $10 billion. (READ: FAST FACTS: How important is the EU to the Philippines?) – Rappler.com