MANILA, Philippines — After a five-year hiatus, the European Union (EU) is ready to resume negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Philippines as well as on the renewal of the country’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) accreditation, which allows it to export goods to the European market duty-free, Malacañang said on Friday.
President Marcos pushed for the expansion of talks on the EU-Philippines as well as the renewal of the country’s GSP+ status during his meeting with European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-European Union Commemorative Summit in Brussels, Belgium on Thursday.
The negotiations for the EU-Philippines FTA started in 2016. The last round of negotiations was held in Cebu City in 2017.
Since then, negotiations have been on hiatus, according to a statement released by the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS).
Meanwhile, the GSP+ “would open the door for much easier start into going into free trade agreement negotiations,” the OPS quoted Von der Leyen as saying during her meeting with Marcos and other Philippine officials in Brussels.
“Let’s work on it,” Von der Leyer told Marcos, referring to talks on the renewal of the country’s GSP+ status.
It is set to expire by the end of 2023.
In his remarks at the Philippines-EU business roundtable, also in Brussels, Marcos noted that the Philippines is “the only ASEAN country to benefit from the EU GSP Plus.”
“While the Philippines awaits the resumption of the Phl-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations, we remain committed to maintain our EU GSP+ beneficiary status, serving as a stepping-stone towards this FTA,” the President told European business leaders.
Marcos said the Philippines has FTA with Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which provides the Philippines duty-free market access to all industrial and fisheries products to the EU member-states.
The GSP+ is one of the EU’s specialized incentive arrangements for sustainable development and good governance in the form of zero duties.
It is a unilateral trade arrangement which offers zero tariffs on 6,274 products or 66 percent of all EU tariff lines.
Before the Philippines applied for the GSP+, it was using the Standard GSP. In 2012, the Philippines was the 20th largest user of this scheme out of 140 beneficiaries.
As of January 2018, the Philippines continues to retain its GSP+ preferential status following the release of a report from the European Commission that reviewed the Philippines’ progress in implementing 27 international conventions that it has ratified, a precondition for maintaining GSP+, according to the Foreign Service Institute.
The report noted that the Philippines had made progress on labor rights, environmental protection, gender equality, people trafficking, health, education, social-economic rights and the fight against corruption.