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Philippines, South Korea conclude free trade talks — DTI

Free trade negotiations between the Philippines and South Korea have concluded, a move seen to make the country’s exports to the East Asian nation competitive, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Tuesday.

The conclusion of the Philippines-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came prior to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Korea Summit also scheduled for Tuesday.

“We, Trade Minister Yeo Han-Koo of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of the Republic of Korea, and Secretary Ramon M. Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry 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 joint statement read.

Both parties acknowledged that the FTA would help contribute to the economic recovery efforts of the Philippines and South Korea amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” Lopez said. 

The Trade department said the final negotiations focused on market access for Philippine banana exports and for Korean automotive units and parts. 

The Philippines was also able to get tariff elimination for bananas, which was previously excluded under the ASEAN-Korea FTA.

The discussions likewise allowed for an improved tariff treatment for processed pineapples, as compared to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) concessions.  
With the RCEP agreement complemented by the bilateral FTA with Korea, the “trade value of Philippine exports to Korea will now be substantially covered,” Lopez said. “Hence, it will make the Philippine exports competitive in the said market."

“Once enforced, the FTA with South Korea will be an important vehicle for enhancing trade flows, and generating more investment and employment opportunities in the process,” the DTI added.

The two countries also committed to complete all necessary domestic procedures towards the signing of the Korea-Philippines Free Trade Agreement in early 2022. 

Free trade negotiations between the Philippines and South Korea began on June 3, 2019 in Seoul.

In November 2019, the Philippines and South Korea signed the Early Achievement Package “that confirmed the agreement of both sides to lock in the list of already offered at the time,” the DTI said.

Legal scrubbing also commenced on chapter texts of the agreement, namely: Trade in Goods, Trade Remedies, Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation, Rules of Origin, Competition, and Chapters under Legal and Institutional Issues (i.e., General Provisions, Transparency, Institutional Arrangements, Final Provisions, Exceptions, and Dispute Settlement). 

The Trade in Services and Investment chapters will be covered by a work program for future negotiations, according to the agency.

The Trade in Goods and Economic and Technical Cooperation chapters are set to be finalized by both sides with a view to ensure a closer collaboration towards a robust post-pandemic recovery, the DTI said. — VBL, GMA News