On 4 October 2012, the Council adopted the new EU generalised scheme of preferences (GSP) for developing countries (see Regulation 978/2012, published on 31 October 2012). The new GSP regime will only replace the current scheme on 1 January 2014, so existing GSP benefits will continue to apply until that date.
The general aim of the new GSP scheme is to concentrate duty preferences on those developing countries most in need, by reducing the number of beneficiary countries and increasing the number of products that can benefit from preferential treatment. The number of GSP beneficiary countries – which are also eligible for GSP+ (granting further tariff reductions for those GSP beneficiaries that respect certain sustainable development and good governance principles) – is currently estimated to be lowered from 176 to 89 countries. The Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement which gives duty-free access to the least developed countries will remain unchanged. The list of GSP beneficiary countries will be reviewed on an annual basis.
The criteria for suspending duty preferences for a particular product section from a specific country (the socalled “graduation mechanism”) have been amended to better target certain product groups. The new GSP regime also contains a general safeguard mechanism to re-introduce normal customs duties if imports of a certain product from a certain beneficiary country could cause “serious difficulties”.
The EU is expected to adopt the necessary measures concerning GSP+ procedures and countries, the first annual review of the GSP beneficiary list (to be finalised in the coming months) and the list of graduated product sections in the course of next year.