EU
Since taking office in June 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly berated the EU over the bloc’s criticisms of his administration’s tarnished human rights record. At one point, the firebrand leader threatened to expel European diplomats out of the country and in 2017, rejected any donations from the EU.
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Businesses warn potential halt of EU trade perks a serious matter
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - September 22, 2020 - 3:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — A potential rollback of trade perks from the European Union should be taken seriously by government as it risks worsening massive joblessness during the pandemic, a business group said on Tuesday.

In a statement, Francis Lim, president of the Management Association of the Philippines, an industry group, raised the alarm for the group’s over 1,000 members on calls from EU lawmakers to remove the Philippines from Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+).

“We fervently hope that the removal of the GSP preferences by the EU countries will not push through. It will make our products less competitive and will seriously impact on several industries,” Lim said.

How the government intends to convince EU legislators that the Philippines remains deserving of GSP+ benefits of zero tariffs remains unclear, but Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Friday said there was no reason why Manila would get its GSP+ status revoked. 

GSP+ allows the export of 6,274 local products from coconut and processed fruits to textiles, garments and furniture at zero tariff to the EU. But the privilege has always been hinged on certain metrics, including respect to human rights and freedoms which EU lawmakers believe were violated under the Duterte administration’s drugs war and shutdown of ABS-CBN Corp.’s free channels, among others.

While Lopez has expressed openness to explain the Philippines’ side to the economic bloc, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque taunted EU to push through with the removal of GSP+ last Friday. Lim said the matter at hand is as serious as it can get.

“Our government should not take the matter lightly for the sake of our people. We hope it will be discussed and addressed by both parties in a mutually satisfactory manner,” he said.

As it is, the coronavirus pandemic has already brought unprecedented suffering with the economy shrinking at record pace of 16.5% in second quarter, and people losing their jobs. Lim said a removal of GSP+ benefits would only worsen the already bleak economic situation. 

“It will increase the number of the unemployed among our countrymen at the time when they most need jobs,” Lim said. Albeit lower than 17.7% in April, the jobless rate of 10% in July remained way above historical averages.

“Our economy will suffer more damage, especially given the contraction we are already experiencing with the pandemic.

Since taking office in June 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly berated the EU over the bloc’s criticisms of his administration’s tarnished human rights record. At one point, the firebrand leader threatened to expel European diplomats out of the country and in 2017, rejected any donations from the EU.

Duterte, nonetheless, has not spoken directly regarding the latest EU threat of removing the Philippines’ GSP+ status.

Apart from GSP+, the EU is also active in lending in projects promoting peace in Mindanao.

EUROPEAN UNION MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES RODRIGO DUTERTE
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