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Philippines Into EU’s New Round For Duty-free Tuna Imports

The Philippines could soon ship tuna products duty-free to the European Union under its next round of trade preference scheme for developing countries.

In a statement over the weekend, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the country is “set to apply” for the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+).

Last year, the EU announced that certain exports from the Philippines, Pakistan and Ukraine may enter duty-free under the GSP+ starting next year, provided that they meet two conditions: first, the products comprise less than two percent of Europe’s GSP imports; and second, the said countries must have ratified and are abiding by 27 international conventions covering the environment, governance, human and labor rights, and sustainable development.

The Philippines is eyeing to qualify for the GSP+ in the next 10-year cycle from 2014 to 2023, as the existing EU GSP cycle ends in December.

The country is a beneficiary of the EU GSP, under which 2,442 products enter Europe duty-free while 3,767 are slapped lower tariffs.

Philippine exports enjoying zero or lower duties under the EU GSP include canned tuna, canned pineapples, crude coconut oil, dried/prepared pasta, edible parts of plants, activated carbon, imitation and other articles of jewelry, garments, semiconductors, tennis balls, and mattress support for bed frames.

Last year, Euro 1.076-billion or roughly P62.8-billion worth of Philippine shipments were granted preferential treatment under the EU GSP, with chemicals, live animals and animal products, vegetables, wood and articles of wood, and jewelry among the top beneficiaries.

If the country qualifies for GSP+, 6,274 products would be slapped zero tariff, allowing Philippine exports to the EU to grow by 12 percent alongside the creation of 270,000 new jobs, the DTI said.

Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. said the DTI is already briefing exporters on the requirements and processes for the EU GSP+.

Cristobal said the garments and tuna sectors would most benefit from the trade scheme, so the DTI has already committed to assist these industries on non-tariff measures and rules of origin concerns under the EU GSP+.

The GSP+ would generate an additional 40,000 jobs in the garments sector within the first eight months, while the volume of canned tuna exports to the EU would rise 64 percent alongside jacking up the workforce by 70 percent, the DTI said.

Cristobal said the benefits of the EU GSP+ to the garments and tuna industries would redound to the whole manufacturing sector.

“The sustainability of the tuna and garments sectors will contribute significantly to the revival of the country’s manufacturing industry since these sectors account for more than 50 percent of the country’s industry labor force,” he said.