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Trade chief urges EU investors to separate politics from business

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the European Union (EU) should separate political issues from business, clarifying that President Duterte’s insults were against European politicians, not investors.

Lopez said in a forum in Manila that President Duterte’s comments tended to be generalized, affecting seemingly unrelated quarters such as trade and investment.

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“To us, we should not link to business this non-business issue. In other words, they shouldn’t affect the investments going to the Philippines,” he said yesterday.

However, the economic relationship with the European bloc is not without politics. More than 6,000 Philippine products are allowed zero tariff to the EU in exchange for compliance with key international agreements, which include the protection of human rights.

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This tariff-free access is made possible under the Generalized System of Preference Plus (GSP+), a unilateral trade arrangement that is currently at risk due to the Duterte administration’s bloody anti-crime efforts, including the move to reinstate the death penalty.

The European Parliament earlier released a joint resolution calling for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte leadership currently facing drug-related charges.

The parliament also called for the EU commission to consider the possible removal of the GSP+ “to persuade the Philippines to put an end to extrajudicial killings related to the anti-drug campaign.”

President Duterte said that he would hang EU officials for their opposition to efforts in bringing back capital punishment—an insult which triggered the EU to demand an explanation from a Philippine envoy.

“Unfortunately, it’s a unilateral program given to us by the EU and it helps us. Our exports to EU went up,” Lopez said.

Preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that exports to the European bloc increased 82.5 percent to $896.69 million in January this year from $491.34 million a year ago.

However, Philippine exports to EU for the full year of 2016 dropped 7.96 percent to $6.78 billion from $7.19 billion. There is no publicly available data to determine how much of this movement in sales is attributable to the use of GSP+.

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“What we are saying is [they should] continue to engage the Philippines precisely because the GSP+ was created to help the developing country. The more they should continue to engage us to create more exports from the Philippines, more jobs, more legitimate business so that less people would go to illegal activities,” Lopez said.

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TAGS: EU investors, European politicians, political issues, Secretary Ramon M. Lopez
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