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Overview of GSP

Since the 1980’s, ILRF has been one of the lead organizations to use labor protections in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) to uphold workers’ rights. GSP is a US trade program which offers tariff cuts on certain goods to developing countries. The program offers trade benefits only to countries which afford “internationally recognized worker rights.” Through GSP, ILRF works within the US legal system to fight for the protection of workers around the globe.

GSP law provides organizations like the ILRF with a mechanism to urge for the withdrawal of trade preferences in response to a country’s non-compliance with its labor laws. However, the ILRF views the actual removal of trade preferences as a last resort, and by filing GSP petitions, does not seek to devastate local economies or affect the job security of poor workers. Instead, GSP petitions are used to bring labor rights abuses to the attention of the U.S. government, and to urge and pressure recipient governments to review and respond to the labor situations in their countries. This strategy serves as a tool for providing governments with the political will and motivation necessary to implement fundamental labor reforms, and to demonstrate their commitment to enforcing labor laws and respecting worker’s rights at the national level.

Read more about the effectiveness of GSP petitions in changing labor standards
Read more about recommendations to Improve GSP Labor Rights Criteria and Review Process


GSP: Dole Pineapple Products, Philippines
In October 2008 ILRF testified at a hearing regarding Dole’s petition for the addition of pineapple products to the GSP schedule. According to research by our partners, Dole exploits its pineapple workers through labor contracting schemes and denies them basic rights. We requested that before any additional special benefits are granted to fuel Dole’s expansion, US government officials must require that Dole take measures to ensure that pineapple workers enjoy their internationally recognized rights and decent working conditions.

ILRF Pre-hearing brief
ILRF hearing testimony
ILRF Press Release
Dole Foods Post Hearing Brief
Sour Taste of Pineapples (ILRF's pineapple industry report)


GSP: Philippines
In June 2007 the ILRF filed a petition against the Philippines, asking the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to look into the country’s labor rights abuses. The petition cites unionist killings between 2001 and 2007: at least 33 union leaders were murdered during this time. Beyond these killings, the government systematically denies workers their right to freedom of association by threatening, intimidating, and assaulting trade unionists. In 2007 the ILRF asked the USTR to leave the Philippines GSP case open but under “active scrutiny.” The case now hangs on action by the government: the Philippines will continue to receive GSP trade benefits only if it is able to show concrete steps toward a commitment to workers’ rights.

See the GSP Petition on the Philippines

GSP: Uzbekistan
In June 2007 the ILRF filed a petition for the USTR to remove Uzbekistan’s GSP status. The report focused specifically on cotton, a good which receives duty exemptions under GSP. Uzbekistan’s cotton export industry is the second largest in the world, and contributes 60% of the country’s hard currency earnings. The ILRF petition instances Uzbekistan’s use of state-orchestrated forced and child labor. The government of Uzbekistan yearly mobilizes hundreds of thousands of children to manually harvest cotton. Conditions are exacting and hazardous for forced and child laborers, some of whom are as young as seven.

See the GSP Petition on Uzbekistan

GSP: Niger
In July 2006 the ILRF petitioned the USTR to revoke Niger’s GSP benefits based on an egregious and pervasive state of labor rights violations. GSP status is conditional upon a country’s steps to establish “freedom from compulsory labor”; the ILRF’s report cites rampant violations of this international human right. The report details Niger’s systemic use of caste-based slavery in formal and informal sectors—a historical practice in the country. “Masters” maintain strict control over slaves’ lives, dictating such personal matters as whom their subjects will marry and whether their children will attend school. Forced child labor is pervasive.

See the GSP petition on Niger