The Philippines and South Korea have concluded negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA), which is expected to be signed early next year.
Top trade officials of South Korea and the Philippines announced the conclusion of their FTA negotiations in a joint statement on October 26. They will negotiate further on the trade in services and investment provisions no later than one year after the deal enters into force.
“We, trade minister Yeo Han-koo of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of the Republic of Korea, and secretary Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry [DTI] of the Republic of the Philippines, are pleased to officially announce today, October 26, 2021, the conclusion of the negotiations for the Korea-Philippines Free Trade Agreement,” the statement read.
Both have committed to make the necessary preparations for the signing of the FTA “in early 2022”, or about three years past their original self-imposed deadline.
The Philippines and South Korea first announced in April 2019 that they would be pursuing an FTA, which they promised but failed to finish in November of the same year.
South Korea is one of the most important export markets for goods such as Philippine bananas. But to enter the Korean market, exporters have to pay a tariff of 30 per cent.
In a Viber message to reporters, Lopez said this would be reduced to zero in five years with the signing of the FTA “before February 2022”.
“The final negotiations focused on market access for Philippine banana exports and for Korean automotive units and parts. The Philippines was also able to secure tariff elimination for bananas, which was previously excluded under the ASEAN-Korea FTA,” the DTI said in a separate statement.
“Likewise, the discussions allowed for an improved tariff treatment for processed pineapples, as compared to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership concessions,” it added, although Lopez said this would reach zero per cent duty in seven years.
Lopez did not expound on what the Philippines had to concede in order to get better market access for bananas, which used to be a contentious topic during negotiations.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK