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PHL, South Korea agree to pursue bilateral free trade deal

The Philippines and the Republic of Korea on Wednesday agreed to pursue a bilateral free trade agreement in a bid to further enhance the economic ties and expand trade between the two countries.

In a joint statement after their meeting in Manila on April 17, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and South Korean Trade Minister Myung-hee Yoo said the two countries "confirmed their common understanding to pursue a bilateral free trade agreement."

"The two countries have agreed to put their best effort to conclude the negotiations in time for the 2019 Republic of Korea-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Commemorative Summit scheduled in November 2019," the joint statement read.

"The two countries will commence the negotiations upon the completion of required domestic procedures," according to the joint statement.

Once concluded, the bilateral free trade agreement will pave the way for an enhanced market access for products of interest of the Philippines and South Korea.

The agreement is also seen to provide a more stable and predictable economic environment necessary to generate more trade and investments between the two countries.

Merchandise trade between the two countries reached $13.7 billion in 2018, making South Korea as the 5th largest trading partner of the Philippines.

Philippines' top exports to South Korea include bananas, pineapples, copper.

Investments from South Korea totaled $35.79 million, primarily on real estate activities and manufacturing.

The two countries share longstanding ties characterized by mutual trust and support since the Korean war.

The two countries will celebrate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations in November 2019 and announce the conclusion of the free trade agreement negotiations. —LDF, GMA News