By J.C. Lim, February 3 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Reuters

THE European Union has urged the Philippines to make the most out of the EU Generalized System of Preferences program as Philippine exports to the EU have not been moving upward.

“Exports are basically at the same level. So they are not increasing. I would like the Philippines to benefit from the European market more than they are currently. I think there’s a very big potential for Philippine exports to the EU,” EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen told reporters last week in Makati City.

“What I would like to see is the full utilization of the GSP plus. It’s not used as much as it could be but it’s been used well,” he added.

Of the Philippine exports to the EU in the January to November period last year, some 25% were shipped through the GSP+.

Mr. Jessen said the country’s utilization of the GSP program has been on a” steady increase,” considering that the program was made available to the country only four years ago.

“But we would like to see it bigger, it is a big trade advantage to the Philippines that we don’t give to any country in Southeast Asia,” he added.

The EU GSP+ allows the Philippines to export 6,274 products to EU countries at zero-duty.

A report Mr. Jessen showed to reporters noted that the EU-Philippines bilateral trade with imports from the bloc increasing while Philippine exports to the EU are at an” almost flat trend.”

Citing Eurostat data, the report said EU imports from the country in the January to November period last year grew by 2% to €7.2 billion while exports to the Philippines jumped 16% to €7.01 billion.

For the EU, this meant deficit with the Philippines shrinking to €170 million from €960 million in the comparable period in 2017.

Total bilateral trade in the 11 months amounted to €14.2 billion, up 8% from the €13.2 billion in the prior year.

Asked to cite the laggards for last year’s flat exports, Mr. Jessen said agriculture exports were the biggest disappointment.

Eurostat figures show that Philippine agriculture exports to the EU from January to November registered a 10% year-on-year decline.

“I think what we can do there is to have a stronger focus on the quality of agricultural exports to the EU, involving also strengthening trade missions and trade promotion efforts. To work also with the ECCP (European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines) to do that would be helpful,” the EU ambassador added.

“I would also be interested in working with the national and local governments in order to increase information in understanding GSP plus,” he added.

Mr. Jessen also said EU’s GSP+ report on 2018 will soon be published.

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