The Philippine government wants shoes and bags to be included in the list of export products with zero tariff rates under the US Generalized System of Preferences Plus.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez recently met with the American Apparel and Footwear Association in a regional gathering that was also attended by the Confederation of Wearables Exporters of the Philippines.
Lopez said he discussed the expansion of GSP”•a trade arrangement that allows duty-free entry of specific Philippine products to the US—as well as the plan to explore further the possibility of having a more permanent FTA with US.
“This is considered very important in our economic program under President Duterte’s administration which aims to accelerate job and income generation activities especially in the countryside and help reduce inequality,” Lopez said.
The industry currently employs around 300,000 workers and has the potential to increase employment to over 4 million if the Philippines attracts more investments into the garments and leather goods sector.
The Trade Department underscored the importance of having trade concessions to encourage more investors to operate in the country.
The meeting with AAFA created shared efforts to enhance trade between the US and the Philippines through commitments made via the US GSP and increase chances of forging a free trade agreement.
Following the successful collaboration of the Trade Department and the wearables industry for the inclusion of travel goods in the US GSP, the industry committed to develop designs that incorporate indigenous textiles in travel goods for export to the US.
The garments and textiles sector has steadily declined since the mid-1990s, as export of the sector decreased from an annual average of $2.4 billion between 1995 and 2006 to an average of $1.6 billion over the past five years.
“Now is the time to bring back the role of the sector as a contributor to job generation and economic development. Good relations will translate to good business, thus, generating jobs for the Filipinos,” Lopez said.