Philippines can double food exports to EU

By Louella D. Desiderio, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 12 2015 09:37 AM | Updated as of Mar 12 2015 05:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has the potential to double the value of its food exports to the European Union (EU) and maximize the benefits of the bloc’s trade preference program through the use of the Geographical Indications (GI) scheme.

Speaking at the EU-GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) and GI forum held yesterday, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Guy Ledoux said that as most of the products granted zero tariffs under the GSP+ are related to food including processed fruit, juice, fish, plant products, mixed fruits, and non-alcoholic beverages, the Philippines is not only going to get better market access to the EU but could also maximize the benefits of the program with higher profits through the use of GIs.

“Currently your food-related exports to the EU already count over €800 million – 17 percent more than last year! Not only will you have more access thanks to the abolition of tariffs. With GIs you could actually double the value of these products,” he said.

The Philippines secured beneficiary status to the EU GSP+, a scheme allowing the export of 6,274 products to any of the 28 members of the bloc at zero tariff for a period of 10 years, in December last year.

The GI is a type of intellectual property right used to identify a product originating in the territory of a particular country, or region or locality, where a given quality or characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

Ledoux noted that protection of GIs have advantages in terms of creating value for communities, supporting rural development as well as creation of job opportunities.

He said GIs are common in Europe and farmers have benefitted from protection of products such as Bordeaux wine, Feta Cheese and Parma Ham.

“The increased income and profits obtainable from well-known GIs can help promote the development of rural communities and encourage genuine quality agriculture and crafts,” he said.

As GIs are becoming a useful intellectual property right for developing countries, given its potential to promote rural socio-economic development, he said the EU supports the Philippines’ move to work on its own GI-regulation.

The EU is working with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines to come up with a local GI-regulation.

Ledoux said the EU also support the registration of high quality Filipino products, including Guimaras Mangoes, Davao Pomelo and Lake Sebu T’nalak weaving under its trade related assistance program.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Alfredo Yao said in the same event that as the EU places great importance on GIs, it is necessary for local businesses to be able to leverage on such as well as on the GSP+ to access the European market.

“The GSP+ and GIs are important components of our doing business in the EU bloc. As our largest export market, our trade relations with the EU will surely benefit from participation to the GSP+ and GIs,” he said.

For his part, Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano said the full implementation of the Food Safety Act, which seeks to strengthen the food safety regulatory system, would be needed to allow the country to take advantage of opportunities of the EU GSP+ given the standards set by the European market.

“You need to be able to study very well standards of European market and disseminate to the public so you are able to access this market,” he said.

Read more on The Philippine Star.