MANILA – Officials from the Philippines and the European Union (EU) will meet in Brussels, Belgium this week to discuss the status of the Philippines’ EU Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+).
 
In a document obtained by the Philippine News Agency, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Alfredo Pascual will lead a high-level mission to Brussels from Oct. 27 to 28.
 
In a forum of Philippine and French businesses Monday, Pascual also confirmed his visit to Brussels to tackle the country’s EU GSP+ status and the resumption of dialogues between the Philippines and the EU for a free trade agreement (FTA).
 
The high-level delegation will be meeting concerned officials of the European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament to defend the country’s EU GSP+ privileges.
 
On Thursday, Pascual and other DTI officials as well as the head of the Philippine Senate and the members of the Senate trade committee are expected to attend the joint meeting of the GSP+ and Asean Monitoring Groups of the Members of the European Parliament.
 
On Friday, the DTI chief will meet Executive Vice President and EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. He will also meet with the Permanent Representations of Spain, Czech Republic, and Sweden in Brussels.
 
Last February, the Philippines’ EU GSP+ status faced headwinds following threats from the EU Parliament to temporarily hold trade privileges for the country amid allegations of human rights abuses and lack of press freedom.
 
From Feb. 28 to March 4 this year, a team of EU officials conducted a monitoring mission here and engaged with the Philippine government to address issues relating to human rights, the rule of law, labor relations, good governance, and environmental protection.
 
Under the EU GSP+, the Philippines enjoys a free tariff for 6,274 products entering the EU market.
 
In return, the Philippines has to adhere to the 27 international conventions on human rights, labor rights, environmental protection, and good governance to continue enjoying the trade perks.
 
Philippine Statistics Authority data showed that from January to August this year, Philippine exports to the EU market increased by 5.6 percent to USD5.85 billion compared to the same period a year ago.
 
In a press conference Monday, French Ambassador to the Philippines Michele Boccoz underscored the importance of the EU GSP+ in the bilateral trade between France and the Philippines.
 
“It’s (maintaining the EU GSP+ for the Philippines) important for us because the Philippines is an important (trade) partner. So it’s obviously important to keep the Philippines as our close partner and to continue trading in the best possible conditions with the Philippines... We are one of the participants on the EU side, and I think that both should make greater efforts to make sure that this continues,” Boccoz said. (PNA)