The European Community first introduced a Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) in 1971, following a resolution of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The GSP is a preferential tariff scheme that offers developing countries (beneficiaries) reduced or suspended tariffs on their exports to the EU. The scheme aims to contribute to the economic growth of developing countries by granting them preferential access to the EU market.
Regulation (EU) No. 978/2012 on a scheme of generalised tariff preferences (the GSP Regulation) forms the legal framework for the current scheme and offers the following arrangements:
- A general arrangement (Standard GSP), which grants tariff reductions to low and lower-middle income countries;
- A Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance (GSP+) aimed at supporting economically vulnerable beneficiary countries in their responsibilities concerning sustainable development and good governance by granting tariff suspensions; and
- A special Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which grants tariff and quota suspensions for all products except arms and ammunition.
A number of reforms were introduced as of 1 January 2014 to align the Regulation better with countries most in need. The reforms are aimed to reflect the European Commission’s commitment to increased coherence between different policies and to better safeguard the EU’s financial and economic interests. The reforms include changes to the scheme’s eligibility criteria, product coverage, graduation mechanism, safeguard mechanism, temporary withdrawal measures and the GSP+ arrangement.