By Janina C. Lim, November 4 2018; Business World


Image Credit to Reuters

THE government said it expects a more positive assessment in the European Union’s (EU) next report on the Philippines’ implementation of 27 international conventions that will help determine continued participation in the bloc’s preferential trade arrangements.

“In our exit interview, the EU raised a few points, but overall their inputs were positive,” Ceferino S. Rodolfo, Undersecretary for the Trade Department’s Industry Development and Trade Policy Group, told reporters last week in Manila when asked for updates on the EU’s third generalized system of preferences (GSP+) review held in early October.

Asked about the EU’s concerns, Mr. Rodolfo said they are the “same” issues the EU has brought up previously, without providing details.

The review assesses whether GSP+ beneficiaries are making advancements in the implementation of the 27 international conventions related to human rights, labor rights, protection of the environment and good governance.

The EU conducts an annual review to monitor beneficiary-countries who are obliged to cooperate as a condition for continued participation in the GSP+ program.

The 2017 EU GSP+ report highlighted “serious concerns” about extrajudicial killings, as well as proposals to revive the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility.

“I think there have been improvements. The talks were positive,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

Asked for comment on the EU’s GSP+ mission, EU Ambassador Franz Jessen said “the mission received good cooperation from the Government.”

“Besides dialogue with the Government, the monitoring mission also involves close interaction with civil society, international organizations (e.g. UN and ILO) present in the Philippines and other stakeholders to get a broad and varied view on the state of play with regard to the implementation of the conventions,” Mr. Jessen said in an e-mail interview.

“The monitoring missions are part of the GSP+ monitoring process that applies in the same way to all GSP+ beneficiary countries,” he added.

The recent mission will mark the third GSP+ monitoring mission. Results from the mission will be published end-2019.

According to the European Commission, the Philippines is the EU’s 6th largest trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations while the EU is the country’s 4th largest trading partner.

Bilateral trade in services between the EU and the Philippines was 4.6 billion euros in 2016.

EU exports to the Philippines include machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, food products, and electronic components. Meanwhile the Philippines’ main exports to the EU are office and telecommunication equipment, machinery, food products, and optical and photographic instruments.

EU foreign direct investment stock in the Philippines was €9.1 billion in 2016. — Janina C. Lim