DTI hopeful PH’s tuna exports can get into EU duty-free

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 6 Sept) – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is hopeful over the country’s chances of getting duty-free treatment starting next year for canned tuna exports to the European Union (EU) under its enhanced Generalized Scheme of Preferences or GSP Plus program.

Trade Assistant Secretary Blesila Lantayona said here on Friday that they have adopted tuna as among the priority products for inclusion into the EU-GSP Plus program, which mainly grants zero duty to a number of qualified export products to the 28-member trade bloc.

She said the agency is presently consulting various industry sectors regarding the country’s application into the program.

“If our application is accepted, EU will be importing tuna from the Philippines at zero tariff starting 2014,” Lantayona said at the opening of the 15th National Tuna Congress trade exhibit at the SM City General Santos trade hall.

The DTI is scheduled to consult tuna industry players and other concerned sectors here on Sept. 18 regarding the country’s application to the GSP Plus, said senior trade and industry specialist Edgar Soguilon.

He said the upcoming consultation is part of a nationwide process adopted by the agency in connection with the processing of its GSP Plus application, which is due for submission to the EU by next month.

A program briefer said EU-GSP Plus is an enhanced preferences scheme that took off from the standard GSP, which offers to developing countries a partial or entire removal of tariffs on two thirds of qualified product categories that are exported to the EU.

Under the EU-GSP Plus program, product categories covered by the standard GSP are granted the “full removal of tariffs.”

These are granted to countries which ratify and implement international conventions relating to human and labor rights, environment and good governance.

Joaquin Lu, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc., said they are looking forward to the inclusion of tuna products, especially canned tuna, into the GSP Plus program by next year.

The group, which hosts the annual National Tuna Congress, is pushing for the adoption at the closing of the two-day gathering on Saturday of a resolution urging the national government to fast track its application for the EU-GSP Plus program.

Lu said they are fully supporting the move as it will further enhance the country’s canned tuna exports, which are mainly produced by six tuna canneries based in this city.

“We prefer this scheme (GSP Plus) as it will enable us to export canned tuna to the EU duty-free and without quota,” he said.

The Philippines’ canned tuna exports to the EU is currently subject to a 24-percent tariff while those of export rivals such as the African, Caribbean and the Pacific Group of States (ACP) and Andean countries have been enjoying a zero tariff.

The country, along with fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states Thailand and Indonesia, was able to negotiate in 2001 for the lowering of the canned tuna tariff by half or down to 12 percent.

But EU’s five-year Tariff Rate Quota scheme, which allowed the Philippines to export 9,000 metric tons of canned tuna at a 12-percent tariff, ended in June 2008 and appeals for its extension did not prosper.