Philippines tuna industry hopeful on inclusion in EU GSP+
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Philippines tuna industry hopeful on inclusion in EU GSP+

A possible inclusion in the European Union generalized system of preferences plus (GSP+) will provide the Philippine tuna industry a much-needed shot in the arm, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Inclusion in the list of GSP+ countries will mean the lifting of the tariffs on hundreds of export products from the Philippines, including canned tuna.

“With GSP+, we hope to improve our share of EU’s fresh and processed tuna market as it will give our products a better fighting chance,” said Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

At present, tuna exports to the European market are subject to 20.5% duties while tuna exports from competitor regions such as Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific countries have been enjoying zero tariffs.

According to Francisco Buencamino, executive director of the Tuna Canners Association of the Philippines, canned tuna exports to Europe in 2012 reached 3,202,659 cases or 42.5 percent of the country’s export volume of 7,538,093 cases.

The value of canned tuna exports to Europe reached US$123,295,407 or 44.8 percent of the total US$275,295,399 export receipts of the country.

“In terms of availment, there is no doubt that GSP+ will increase capacity utilization of canned tuna processing capacity, now estimated only to be about 55%-60% of daily capacity of +1,300 tons per day,” Buencamino said in the 15th National Tuna congress last year.

Industry sources said the inclusion of the Philippines in the EU GSP+ will mean at least additional US$15 million in export revenues or P660 million.

Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. recently reported that the European Union has posed no objection to the application of the Philippines to be included the list of beneficiary countries of the EU’s GSP+ system of tariff preferences.

The application is now reportedly headed to the European Parliament for deliberation.

The Philippines must, however, continue to observe and comply with 27 specified international conventions in the fields of core human and labour rights, the environment and good governance.

It must also strictly follow ratified conventions by the world tuna governing body – the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Among them is traceability and HACCP compliance.

A source from the local tuna industry said the lifting of tariffs and duties on Philippine tuna export to EU could come as early as next year.

“Definitely, this will be a big boon to the tuna industry which has seen the tapering down of growth in the last decade,” said the source, who requested that his name be withheld.

The source said the industry may face strong lobby from tuna-producing countries in Europe who are likely to resist the inclusion of the Philippines in the EU GSP+