The EU has accepted the Republic of Uzbekistan as the 9th beneficiary country of the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) under the unilateral Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP). The EU will start applying preferential tariffs for products imported from Uzbekistan under this arrangement from 10 April 2021.
When joining the GSP+ arrangement, low and lower-middle income countries commit to effective implementation of the 27 core international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental and climate protection and good governance. The GSP Regulation provides for continuous monitoring of GSP+ beneficiaries' obligations.
As a beneficiary of GSP+, Uzbekistan will enjoy further economic benefits compared to the current Standard GSP arrangement. The removal of tariffs on two thirds of the product lines covered by GSP will create opportunities for export growth and attract further investment in the country. The sustainable development commitments under GSP+ will further contribute to Uzbekistan’s position as a reliable, forward-looking economic partner.
The acceptance of Uzbekistan as a beneficiary of GSP+ reflects the recognition of reforms undertaken by the government, in particular to improve the business climate, the judicial system, security services, labour conditions, and administrative accountability and efficiency. It also testifies to consistent positive development in the socio-economic and labour sphere.
There have been, for instance, major efforts to eradicate the systemic use of child labour in the cotton harvest and production processes in Uzbekistan. The ILO, in its Third-Party Monitoring of the cotton harvest in 2018 and 2019, confirmed the elimination of systematic or systemic use of child labour in the cotton harvest. The ILO Third-Party Monitoring of the 2019 cotton harvest concluded that systemic or systematic use of adult forced labour had been eliminated too. These results were confirmed by the latest ILO Third-Party Monitoring report on the 2020 cotton harvest, released in January 2021.
Despite the progress made by Uzbekistan in recent years, a number of concerns remain regarding the effective implementation of the 27 international conventions. The EU is paying close attention to two major legislative processes, in particular the revision of the Criminal Code and the Labour Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan. These legislative acts need to reflect Uzbekistan’s international commitments, including under GSP+.
Regarding the revision of the Criminal Code specifically, the latest draft contains positive steps for example on the definition of torture. However, the provisions on the criminalisation of consensual same-sex relationships, as well as on extremism, defamation and insults continue to be problematic in terms of full alignment with international conventions. The EU will also closely follow Uzbekistan’s commitments on torture prevention and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).
Uzbekistan’s GSP+ status is an opportunity to support the country in its economic development and in building a more sustainable future. GSP+ also gives the EU leverage and the obligation to continuously monitor the effective implementation of the 27 GSP+ relevant conventions. This monitoring will be based on an on-going dialogue with the Government of Uzbekistan and other relevant stakeholders, including through in-person monitoring visits as soon as conditions allow, with specific focus on the identified shortcomings.
The Commission is planning an event on GSP Preferences for Uzbekistan in May 2021 that will involve civil society and other important stakeholders. This event will aim to explain and promote the benefits and intrinsic elements of the development opportunities gained by Uzbekistan joining the GSP+.
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