Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said the just signed free trade agreement (FTA) between the Philippines and South Korea will focus on improving market access especially in critical minerals. energy and supply chains, as well as strengthening bilateral ties to increase investments.
"For the Philippines, this FTA serves as a clear demonstration of the intent to elevate the current bilateral relations with South Korea to a stronger strategic partnership," Pascual said.
He said this is an opportunity to forge stronger bilateral relations and push for more trade and investments between the two countries.
"(The) Philippines’ engagement with South Korea is built on trade through market access, economic cooperation, and investments through collaboration in targeted sectors such as critical minerals and supply chains,” he added.
Pascual and Trade Minister Ahn Duk Geun signed an FTA in Jakarta, Indonesia on the sidelines of the 24th ASEAN-Korea Summit on Thursday, Sept. 7. It was witnessed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.
The DTI chief said the FTA will strengthen the strategic partnership between the Philippines and South Korea towards economic growth.
Marcos said the FTA "is certainly a very big step in that regard." He also said that "it can only be a successful arrangement for both our countries. I look forward to the expansion of the trade agreement between your country and mine."
He added, “when I look at the involvement of Korea and the Philippines, I can say that the relationship between our two countries remains vibrant. And I think it is accelerating … I would like to take this opportunity to deepen further that relationship."
Marcos also hopes that the trade deal between the Philippines and South Korea will include private enterprises and private-sector partners in addition to government-to-government ties.
For his part, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol stated that he is ready to boost the strategic cooperation between the Philippines and South Korea, emphasizing that the FTA "will set another important milestone" in the two nations' relationship.
“I’m really also eager to elevate our partnership to a strategic partnership as we have proposed the last time. And in this regard, I believe that the Korea-Philippines Free Trade Agreement signed later today will set another important milestone in our bilateral relations,” Yoon told Marcos.
Yoon additionally noted that they are interested in extending the potential for overseas Filipino employees in South Korea through their "employment permit system," as he highlighted his interest in the supply chain of vital materials that would allow the Philippines to transition to a nuclear power plant.
Meanwhile, Marcos praised Yoon for their financial support for development projects in the Philippines, saying he hopes to learn from South Korea's experience in developing energy sources.
Marcos also thanked the South Korean government for its continuous support for the Philippines' defense and security initiatives, particularly on South China Sea concerns and the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In terms of tourism, Marcos admitted that South Koreans continue to be the nation's top visitors.
As for the FTA, both countries envisioned it to significantly contribute to the Philippines' value proposition as a strong market for smart and sustainable investments, particularly as a manufacturing and export hub in the region, as a milestone to improve on the Philippines and South Korea collaboration through greater investment and trade ties as well as creating employment opportunities.
With the conclusion of the Philippine-South Korea FTA on its list of free trade agreements, the Philippines anticipates significant economic benefits from improved market access to South Korea, including exports of key products such as tropical fruits, as well as an extensive and solid system for cooperation.
The Philippines values its commercial and business relationships with South Korea. In 2022, it placed fourth in overall bilateral trade with $15.45 billion and sixth in total approved investments for $90.62 million. (Ma. Joselie C. Garcia)