EU parliament to tackle trade perk with PH in February

EU Ambassador Franz Jessen (File photo from AFP)

European lawmakers are expected to discuss the merits of its preferential trade arrangement with the Philippines next month, but this trade perk known as GSP+ remains “for the time being,” said the envoy of the European Union (EU).

In an interview with the Inquirer earlier this week, EU Ambassador Franz Jessen said the European parliament would discuss the latest report on the country’s commitments under the Generalized System of Preference Plus (GSP+). Lawmakers would also discuss the status of other GSP+ beneficiaries.

The EU is a union of 27 member states mostly in Europe, while the European Commission is an institution of the EU responsible for proposing legislation and implementing decisions. The European Parliament is the directly elected institution of the EU.

The GSP+ is a perk that allowed the Philippines to export more than 6,000 products to EU at zero tariff for the past three years.

This, however, is based on the condition that the beneficiary state would stick to certain international conventions, including one concerning human rights, the latter being a constant concern raised by critics of President Duterte.

This develops as the European Commission released its second monitoring report of the country’s international commitments under the GSP+ last week, a copy of which is available online.

The report, expected to give a glimpse of the fate of the trade perk, did not explicitly recommend whether or not the GSP+ status should remain. It did say, however, that the way the government wages its drug war is “a matter of grave concern.”

“The next step would be that the European Parliament would be discussing the report on February 20. For the time being, the GSP+ is still in place,” Jessen said.

An official of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) previously said the parliament would decide whether or not the trade perk would stay, noting that it would be the Commission that would be preparing the report.

Jessen, however, clarified that it would still be the Commission to decide in the end, but it would get the opinion of the parliament on the matter. Nevertheless, he said the European lawmakers may have “strong views” on the subject.

Late last year, some EU lawmakers visited the Philippines, criticizing the Duterte administration for its anti-drug war which they said could result to consequences in the GSP+ privilege.

The European Union, however, has disowned this remark, noting that it doesn’t necessarily reflect the position of the bloc.

“A lot of work has got into it [the report] and I’m very happy with the content but also I’m satisfied with the cooperation especially of the DTI during the report,” Jessen said, adding that another EU mission would visit the country in the first half of the year for continuous monitoring.

In a statement sent on Monday, Jessen said P120 billion worth of Philippine exports were benefiting from GSP+, especially from the food and agricultural sector. In a separate and previous statement, DTI said exports to EU grew 31 percent last year to $8.4 billion.

According to a document posted on the website of the European Commission, the status may be “temporarily withdrawn” from a beneficiary country due to non-compliance with international conventions.

To help decide on this, the Commission would conduct an investigation on the situation. In the end, should a temporary withdrawal be found necessary, the Commission would make a proposal to the European Council.

Meanwhile, the Senate concurred with the ratification of the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation Between the Philippines and the European Union (PH-EU PCA), which he said is “very important” to the bloc and the country’s relationship.


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