THE Philippines and South Korea inked an “early achievement package” as free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations were delayed until the first half of 2020.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the package covers progress on trade talks for banana, garments, automobile parts, pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and his South Korean counterpart Yoo Myung-hee signed the package on November 25 on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean)-Korea Commemorative Summit in Busan.
The package would be further developed as FTA talks progress, the DTI added.
The Philippines and South Korea began their free trade talks in June this year, holding intersessional meetings in October and November, finalizing the chapter on competition and making progress on the remaining chapters on trade in goods, trade in services, investment, rules of origin, economic and technical cooperation, and legal and institutional issues.
“It is commendable that both sides have achieved substantial progress both in the market access and text-based negotiations in a span of just six months,” the DTI noted despite not concluding the negotiations in November, which was the original plan.
The Trade chief is still pushing for better market access for the country’s agricultural products, especially bananas, as these are still slapped with 30-percent tariff by South Korea, which puts the country at a disadvantage compared to Vietnam, which is currently enjoying zero tariffs for banana exports.
“The FTA, once enforced, will be an important vehicle for improving the balance of trade with South Korea through enhanced trade flows, facilitating the movement of natural persons, generating more investment opportunities and by extension and job generation possibilities,” Lopez said.
As of end-September, Philippine shipments to South Korea reached $2.36 billion, 26.6 percent higher than the previous year’s $1.87 billion in the same period, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
South Korean imports to the Philippines, meanwhile, dropped by 24.7 percent to $6.31 billion in the first three quarters from $8.38 billion a year ago.
Several executives from South Korean firms also met with DTI representatives to discuss expansion plans in the Philippines during the summit. They came from Daesang Corp., Hyinda E&C, Developer City Co. Ltd., JS Development, Korea Overseas Investment and Urban Development, LG CNS, Pan Co. Ltd., Dohwa and Dae II Corp., among others.