PHL to continue enjoying trade benefits in US after crucial conditional review on labor rights compliance

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, Dec. 3 (PNA) — The Philippines will continue to enjoy trade benefits in the United States, such as tax-free entry of its goods, after Washington ended its crucial eight-year review on Manila’s compliance to upholding workers rights, which is a condition for countries seeking preferential treatment of its products in America.

The US Trade Representative (USTR) published on Nov. 25 the formal closure of the review case under the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) regarding workers’ rights in the Philippines, recognizing the progress made by the Philippine government in addressing workers’ rights issues primarily through reforms of labor laws and regulations.

Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia said the formal closure of the country review will allow the Philippines to enjoy GSP without change to its trade benefits.

The US GSP program was instituted on Jan. 2, 1976 and is renewed periodically by the US Congress. The current program is effective until December 2017.

GSP provides developing countries with preferential and duty-free entry to the US market of products from 122 designated beneficiary countries (DBCs) and territories, including the Philippines.

Trade benefits, however, are conditional on enforcing intellectual property rights protection, upholding of workers’ rights, and protection against child labor. The GSP country review, which was initiated in 2008, focused on Philippine labor standards and practices.

“The Philippines welcomes the formal closure by the USTR of the GSP country review case regarding our protection and promotion of workers’ rights. It is a testament to the great strides of the Philippine government, under the Aquino administration, towards establishing a system of governance that is based on the rule of law, respect for human rights, and the notion of accountability,” Cuisia said.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry Philippine exports in 2013 under the US GSP reached USD 1.256 billion, making it the 5th largest user of the program.

Major Philippine exports under the US GSP include measuring and checking instruments, appliances and machines (USD 78.2 million); other cane sugar (USD 74.8 million); telescopic sights for rifles not designed for use with infrared light (USD 61.9 million); other acyclic monoamines and their derivatives (USD 60.4 million); and insulated electric conductors (USD 60 m,illion).

Separately, the DTI noted that this issue had been in the forefront of the DTI-led Trade and Investment Facilitation Agreement (TIFA) meetings between the Philippines and the US, and in various bilateral meetings, including representations by the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C.

“The hard work and excellent collaboration among the Departments of Labor and Employment , DTI, Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. made this possible,” DTI Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr. said. (PNA)