The Philippines is now a beneficiary of the European Union’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). By joining the GSP+ the country can now export more than 6,000 products to any of the 28 member countries of EU at zero tariff.
The GSP+ expected to benefit in particular agricultural and agro-processed products and labor-intensive industries such as garment and footwear. The EU places great importance to country of origin labeling and the geographical indication (GI) of products entering its market. “A GI is a sign used to identify a product as originating in the territory of a particular country, region or locality where its quality, reputation or other characteristic is linked to its geographical origin”. PCCI and the European Commission (EC) are jointly organizing the “EU-GSP+ and Geographical Indications (GIs): Leveraging on GIs to access the EU Market” to discuss the mechanisms of the GSP+ agreement and GI, and the commercial applicability of GIs in commodities and brands.
Local producers who want to access the market of the European Union could make the most out of the Philippines’ GSP+ privileges (generalized system of preferences) and increase their competitiveness vis-à-vis competitors from other exporting countries once they have the area of origin labeling, specifically the general indication (GI) trademark, speakers stressed at the forum on Leveraging on GIs to Access the EU Market on May 11 at the New World Hotel.
PCCI President Alfredo M. Yao emphasized the importance of the GSP+ and GIs. The EU being the Philippines’ largest export market, he said trade relations will surely benefit and expand from the GSP+ while products with the GI mark will have added leverage.
His Excellency Guy Ledoux, Ambassador of the EU Delegation to the Philippines highlighted how the Philippines can leverage from the GSP+ and GIs. He explained that Philippine exports to the EU, composed mostly of foodstuff, already account for over 800 million Euros in 2013. The GSP+ will assist in broadening the Philippines’ access to the EU market due to the zero tariffs scheme. GIs will also help in giving these products a premium price in the market as GIs establish the product’s good quality.
Amb. Ledoux added that GIs are becoming a useful intellectual property (IP) tool for developing countries because of their potential to add value and promote rural socioeconomic development.
Department Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano recognized that the GSP+ treatment will not be forever, as it is only accorded for five to ten years, and in this regard the Philippine must be ready. He said, “There is a need for the government to study and explore further the linkage between GSP+ and GIs, and the challenge remains to be how to bring the SMEs to the surface in using GIs”. The Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines enumerated GIs as a type of intellectual property, but a mechanism is yet to be established on how GIs will be registered and protected under Philippine laws.
Mr. Laurent Lourdais of the ASEAN Desk Office of the European Commission explained that more than an IP tool, a GI is a potent a marketing tool and is a way to consumer recognition. He stressed on the potentials of Philippine-originated products because of the country’s traditional knowledge, especially in agriculture and agriculture processing. Moreover, he said the GI mark can significantly raise the value of or premium given to a product. On average, he said, the price of a GI product is 2.23 times the price of a comparable non-GI product. The value premium rate is higher for processed and elaborated products than for raw and fresh ones.
Discussing the use of GIs in commodities and brands, IP expert, Atty. Pablo Gancayco said GIs are quality indicators and are widely used by producers, distributors, and retailers as marketing, advertising, or promotional tool to attract consumers and investors. Explaining what a GI is, he said the TRIPs Agreement define GIs as, “indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristics of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin”. GIs, he said, differ from a trademark in that a trademark identifies a good or service as originating from a particular company…and can be assigned or licensed to anyone and anywhere in the world as it is linked to a specific company and not to a particular place. Commodities which may be covered by geographical indications are generally goods like agricultural products, handicrafts, and cloth materials.
Atty. Lope Manuel explained further that since a GI is a sign used on products that have specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin, its components generally includes the geographical name of a country, region, or locality. He further explained that GIs have a special type of ownership--- the link with particular geographical areas must be present, which cannot be licensed, and which is a collective ownership. GIs guarantee the products’ qualities and characteristics by informing consumers that the products to which they are affixed come from an area where a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic.
Mr. Stephane Passeri of the Food and Agriculture Organization cited the absence of a legislative framework; the lack of commitment on the part of professionals (producers, traders etc) as well as local authorities to move the GI forward; absence of joint definition of mandatory specifications; and, GIs approved by the authorities and independently controlled by the third party. He said that of the 10 ASEAN countries, six have already enacted laws for GI implementation namely, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Lao PDR and Malaysia.
Mr. Roberto Amores of the PCCI and the Philippine Food Exporters’ Confederation noted that the Philippines inclusion in the list of countries with the EU-GSP+ is a significant milestone for the Philippine exports markets. He expressed optimism that the implementation of GIs will boost the competitive advantage to the agri-based sector insofar as the vast resource of indigenous agri-products is concerned. He named some of the Philippines agri products that may qualify for GI accreditation such as the pili nuts from Bicol, Barako Coffee from Batangas, Dagupan bangus (milk fish) from Pangasinan, Kalinga Coffee from CAR, dried mangoes from Cebu and fresh mangoes from Guimaras.
Mr. Amores pointed out the importance of a thorough research in the registration of a product for the GI mark. In the case of mangoes from Guimaras Islands, he said a serious question may be raised by producers of equally sweet mangoes from Zambales, Pangasinan and Samal Island in Davao affecting the entire industry to enter market. He suggested that instead of calling it these Guimaras or Manila mangoes why not Philippine Carabao Mangoes so that recognition will not only be limited to one particularly island. He said the same case may be raised for Cebu dried mangoes, which are using the same variety and processing methods as those produced in Luzon and other areas outside Cebu, and milk fish from Pangasinan which may have been given the distinction as the tastiest milk fish through the provinces of Iloilo and Sarangani Bay, Roxas City also produce equally tasty milk fish because of the water quality and applied technology.
Mr. Amores said given the right policy support and implementation, the GI initiative will not only protect local producers but will provide economic and social benefits to rural people in the country. He therefore suggested the need to seriously work on the legal framework for the Philippines as a jumpstart in identifying and accrediting GI communities.
Lastly, Ms. Maria Lydia Lomibao of Bicol’s The House of Pili shared how shared her company’s inspiring entrepreneurial story, which started as a backyard production in 1997 and which has since become one of the major producers of Pili in Bicol with an asset growing up to P20 million today. Ms. Lomibao gave credit to government agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry for providing assistance and support, and welcomed the initiative of PCCI and the EU in pushing for GI implementation in the country.
Bicol Pili Nut is world’s best tasting Pili Nut. It has conformed with internationally acceptable standards on health and food safety, organically growth with no preservatives, non-GMOs and meticulously sorted and picked from among healthy pili kernels. It has high calcium and rich in vitamins and minerals.
Speeches and presentations can be downloaded at http://www.philippinechamber.com/advocacy-and-research/intellectual-property/36-advocacy-and-research/intellectual-property/470-eu-gsp-gi-presentations