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About GSP

The EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) was first introduced in 1971, with the EU playing a leading role in establishing a policy of unilateral trade preferences for poverty reduction and development that has since been mirrored by most industrialised economies. Over time, the GSP has emerged as a core pillar of the EU’s commitment to the role of trade in sustainable development.

The modern GSP categorises three tiers of tariff preferences and commitments based on a beneficiary country’s level of development. Under the general GSP arrangement, eligible beneficiaries receive duty reductions on 66% of tariff lines imported into the EU. The second arrangement, GSP+, provides the incentive for developing countries to benefit from zero duties on 66% of tariff lines contingent on implementation of core human rights, labour, governance, and other sustainable development conventions. Finally, the Everything but Arms (EBA) arrangement provides duty free access for imports from Least Developed Countries (LDCs), except weapons.

More than 200€ billion worth of goods were sold in the EU in 2018 under the GSP, benefitting EU importers and beneficiary country exporters alike.


Poverty reduction 

contributing to poverty reduction by expanding exports from vulnerable countries


Sustainable development  

promoting sustainable development and good governance


About GSP - 3 things you should know about the EU’s GSP

3 things you should know about the EU’s GSP

  • 1) Developing countries are automatically granted GSP if they are classified below ‘upper middle income’ by the World Bank and do not have a preferential access to the EU market 
  • 2) Least-developed countries (LDCs) are automatically included in the EBA even if they have other preferential market access 
  • 3) The EU actively promotes sustainable development as all GSP beneficiaries have to respect 15 core conventions on human rights and labour rights  


Withdrawal mechanism: ensuring effective implementation of the EU’s sustainable development objective

Preferences may be temporarily withdrawn if one or more of the following cases applies to a beneficiary country

  • Serious and systematic violation of core human rights and labour rights conventions
  • Export goods are made by prison labour
  • Serious shortcomings in customs controls with regard to the export or transit of drugs
  • Failure to comply with international conventions on antiterrorism and money laundering
  • Serious and systematic unfair trading practices
  • Serious and systematic infringements of the objectives adopted by regional fishery organisations or any international arrangements to which the EU is a party.

Safeguard mechanism: Protecting European Producers

The safeguard mechanism prevents European producers from experiencing difficulties as a result from preferential imports under the GSP. 

Applying for safeguard measures 

  • The Commission can initiate safeguard measures independently, or 
  • the Commission initiates safeguard measures after a request by an EU Member State, any legal person or any association 

The Commission has the authority to immediately reinstate Common Customs Tariff duties in urgent cases. 

Specific safeguards 

  • Specific safeguards were introduced for textile, agriculture and fishery products 
  • The specific safeguards do not apply to EBA beneficiaries or countries with a share of imports into the EU of less than 6 per cent of all GSP covered imports.