Philippines, South Korea conclude free trade agreement negotiations

Published October 26, 2021, 3:51 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

The Philippines and South Korea concluded Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations that will open the markets for both countries.

Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Korean Trade Minister Han-Koo Yeo signed and issued a joint statement Tuesday.

Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez (right) and Korean Trade Minister Han-Koo Yeo showing their joint statement on the conclusion of Free Trade Agreement negotiations between the two countries (Korea Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy / DTI)

The joint statement announced the conclusion of the negotiations and acknowledged that the FTA will help contribute to the economic recovery efforts of the two countries. The Philippines and Korea have held five rounds of talks since June 2019.

“The agreement is expected to help boost our access to the young, dynamic market. It will also serve as a foundation for broader bilateral cooperation in such various fields as healthcare, electric vehicles and climate change,” according to Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Yonhap News reported.

“We are glad that our trade negotiations with South Korea have come to a fruition. We also thank Minister Yeo and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) for their continued collaboration in facilitating a wider economic cooperation with our Philippine trade department,” said Sec. Lopez.

Under the agreement, South Korea will abolish tariffs on 94.8 percent of all items while the Philippines will remove tariffs on 96.5 percent of items traded.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the final negotiations focused on the export of Philippine bananas to South Korea and import of Korean automotive units and parts.

The Philippines was also able to negotiate tariff elimination for bananas, which was previously excluded under the ASEAN-Korea FTA. Likewise, the discussions allowed for an improved tariff treatment for processed pineapples, as compared to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) concessions.

The deal with the Philippines is South Korea’s fifth bilateral free trade agreement with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries after Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Cambodia.

According to Korea’s trade ministry, the future plan is for both sides to proceed with domestic procedures for legal review and agree to formally sign the Korea-Philippines FTA as soon as possible.