- Honourable DOLE Undersecretary, Lagunzad III
- Honourable ILO Director, Khalid Hassan
- Representatives of the Philippine Government Agencies, Business Organisations, Trade Unions, other NGOs, Ladies and Gentlemen
This is part of a 3-year project with the European Commission contributing €9 million to promote corporate social responsibility and responsible business conduct with regard to the environment, decent work and the respect of human rights.
This is the first time that the EU is working jointly with the ILO and OECD on responsible supply chains on a large scale and will also cover 5 other Asian countries, namely: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan.
Consumers in the EU – as well as in many other countries - care more and more about the safety and the ethical value of the products they purchase and there is growing demand for products that are manufactured in a responsible and sustainable manner.
And generally, consumers are also ready to spend more for those products which are recognised and certified as the fruit of sustainable production processes and ethical values.
The EU is the world's largest market of consumers of goods and services, and as the second largest importer in the world; therefore, the choice of EU consumers may affect many hundreds of millions of people every day in exporting countries. As a result, we have a responsibility to ensure that those market choices do not undermine human rights, labour rights, the protection of the environment and economic opportunity.
In short, we need products that are responsible and we need supply chains that are responsible.
The question is how to achieve this – we need policies that will support the prosperity that local communities derive from trade, improve working conditions worldwide by ensuring respect for labour and other human rights, and protect the environment we all share.
It is not easy but the EU is working towards achieving progress using a range of different tools. The project that we are launching today responds in a very concrete manner to the need to inject responsibility and accountability into the production system. And we are very happy that ILO and OECD can team up with the EU to achieve such an ambitious goal.
For the Philippines, this should be seen also within the context of GSP+ status accorded by the EU. Under GSP+, the Philippines benefits from zero duties for some 2/3 of its exports to the EU market, and mostly agri-food related products benefit of a 0% duty rate.
Overall, while PH exports to the EU reached a total value of €7.6 billion in 2017, €2 billion of which are exports under GSP+ scheme and with nearly half of these GSP+ exports comprising agri-food products worth €930 million.
With GSP+ the EU works with countries which signed up to UN conventions on human rights, environmental cooperation and basic labour rights.
We support these countries to help the Conventions become a reality, supporting partnerships between business, trade unions, NGOs and authorities. We do so in a sustainable way, and we are proud that our GSP+ preferential scheme strengthens economies and helps in providing decent livelihoods, particularly in less developed areas and rural communities.
In addition to GSP+, another important tool consists of including chapters in our free trade agreements on trade and sustainable development.
This is already happening with EU FTA already concluded and implemented like Korea and Canada, and it will happen soon with FTA concluded but still in the ratification process like Japan, Vietnam and Singapore just to name a few.
The Philippines and its key stakeholders are already benefiting under GSP+, and a FTA negotiation is under way.
We hope that this ILO/OECD/EU joint project – which has regional ambitions - will help the business side to improve its capacity such that corporate social responsibility and responsible business conduct would no longer be seen as philanthropic activities but as essential in their economic operations and their long term competitiveness.
Given the complexity of global value chains, the sustainability and responsibility of supply can only be managed in close cooperation with other stakeholders. The EU aims to broaden the coalition behind its efforts to promote responsible business conduct, and today we are here also to celebrate our ongoing cooperation with the OECD and ILO.
I would like to end by wishing you a productive discussion today and look forward to the implementation of the project in the months to come.
Thank you for your kind attention.