EU reviews Philippine trade perks tied to human rights

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 16 2017 03:03 PM | Updated as of Jan 16 2017 08:05 PM

Ambassador Franz Jessen answers questions from the media during the launching of the EU coffee table book "Ties that Bind" in Makati, Monday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The European Union is reviewing whether the Philippines can still qualify for trade incentives that are pre-conditioned on compliance with international agreements, including those on human rights, its envoy said Monday.

A monitoring team from the EU will arrive in the country later this month for an assessment, said Ambassador Franz Jessen. The Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) allows the Philippines to export to the EU without duties or with reduced tariffs.

"We have an ongoing monitoring on the conventions, that work is on going and I will not predict how it will come out in the end, we'll see, we'll see" Jessen said.

Last month, the US-led Millennium Challenge Corp. deferred its decision on fresh funding for the Philippines, citing "significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties."

The GSP+ is based on ratification and compliance with international conventions on human rights, labor rights, environment and good governance.

The Philippines was given preferential status under the European Union-GSP+ in December 2014, allowing the duty-free export of some 6,000 eligible products to the EU market.

In the first six months of 2015, Philippine exports to the EU under GSP+ increased by 27 percent, from 584 million euros to 743 million euros.

President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected criticism from the EU, the US, and other international organizations of his bloody war on drugs.

Jessen said the EU was "very clear" on its opposition to the death penalty, which is at the forefront of Duterte's legislative agenda.

He offered the bloc's help in reforming drug addicts in the Philippines.

Aside from being a trading partner, the EU is also the second largest source of remittances and the fifth largest market for tourist arrivals. The bloc also has 35 million euros (P1.8 billion) in investments in the Philippines.