PHL GSP renewal stalled as US works on IPEF, ambassador says

THE renewal of the Philippines’ participation in the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade program is taking a back seat to the work being done in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a US trade deal.

Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said at a briefing organized by the US-Philippines Society in Makati City on Tuesday that the trade attaché in Washington has been pursuing the GSP renewal but have been sidelined along with other ASEAN countries like Thailand and Vietnam.

“There has been some movement in that direction but unfortunately because of a lot of developments, especially on the new IPEF, which basically touches on a lot of the trade issues surrounding the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, there is that delay on specific GSPs that we’re all working on,” Mr. Romualdez said.

Philippine eligibility for the US GSP program expired at the end of 2020. The trade program allowed the duty-free entry of over 5,000 Philippine products, such as electronics and agricultural products.

In 2020, some $1.56 billion worth of Philippine products were admitted under GSP, for a 74% utilization rate.

IPEF, launched by US President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. in May, seeks to increase the economic engagement of the US in the Indo-Pacific region. The members of the IPEF include Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the US, and Vietnam.

According to Mr. Romualdez, the delay in renewing GSP can also be attributed to the US government’s efforts to increase its economic activity within the ASEAN region via IPEF.

He added that the GSP renewal bid has been hampered by the change of control in the US Congress. The GSP deal would need the approval of Congress.

“(The US is) concentrating a lot of effort on having more economic activity with the ASEAN region. I think there’s a couple of meetings that have been set in this region by the US Trade Representative (USTR) on how to proceed on IPEF,” Mr. Romualdez said.

“What the US is doing as far as trade issues are concerned is to look at the big picture. The big picture is the new IPEF that was launched by the Biden administration,” he added.

Aside from GSP renewal, Mr. Romualdez said that the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the Philippines and the US has also faced delays following IPEF launch.

“The concentration now (is) having a perhaps an FTA with ASEAN as a whole and not specifically (with the Philippines),” Mr. Romualdez said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave