The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has noted gains on the Philippines’s adherence to international labor standards, paving the way for the country to fully enjoy the benefits under the preferential trade scheme.
A USTR news statement release on Friday said that the conclusion of its review is “…based on progress by the Philippine government in addressing worker rights issues in that country, including through reforms of labor laws and regulations.”
“The US acknowledges our initiatives toward creating decent jobs and upholding workers’ rights. The closing of the GSP [Generalized System of Preferences] country review on the Philippines is, indeed, a major milestone for Philippine trade and labor,” according to Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. in a separate news statement.
This follows a recent statement by the American trade bureau of the current US administration putting a premium on workers’ rights under its trade preference programs.
The country had undergone three country reviews for labor practices since 2008 under the US GSP for its alleged failure to uphold internationally recognized workers’ rights, a key consideration for the US government to continue granting the privilege to a trading partner.
In 2014 the USTR noted that the Philippines labor-related country review is anticipated “for closure without change to the Philippines’s GSP benefits, pending GSP reauthorization.”
The country’s re-admittance to the scheme was announced earlier this year.
The US GSP aims to promote economic growth and development in developing countries through preferential and duty-free entry to the US market of products from 122 designated beneficiary countries (DBCs) and territories, including the Philippines.
But, the trade benefits of the US-GSP scheme is preconditioned on compliance to intellectual property rights protection, upholding of workers’ rights, and protection against child labor.
The list of GSP eligible countries and articles may be modified in response to a petition and based on the findings of the annual review.
The GSP country review on Philippine labor standards and practices focused on monitoring the country’s progress on labor-related issues and labor reform legislations.
In 2013 Philippine exports under the US GSP reached $1.256 billion, making it the fifth-largest user of the program.
Major Philippine exports under the US GSP include measuring and checking instruments, appliances and machines ($78.2 million); other cane sugar ($74.8 million); telescopic sights for rifles not designed for use with infrared light ($61.9 million); other acyclic monoamines and their derivatives ($60.4 million); and insulated electric conductors ($60 million).
The US GSP program covers a total of 5,000 products or tariff lines or roughly 47 percent of the 10,600 total US tariff lines: 3,500 of which are open for all DBCs, while an additional 1,500 products are given to the least-developed beneficiary countries.
The GSP program includes most dutiable manufactures and semi-manufactures, and select agricultural, fishery, and primary industrial products.
The US GSP program was instituted in 1976 and has been renewed periodically since then by the US Congress. The current program is effective until December 2017.