Philippines pushing for more access of agri products to SoKor
Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - April 29, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — As South Korea is seeking lower tariff for its automobiles, the Philippines is pushing for greater access for its agricultural products and having Korean firms set up assembly operations for electric vehicles (EV) in the country under the planned bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo told reporters that South Korea wants the tariff for completely built up vehicles brought to the country to be reduced to zero.

South Korean vehicles imported to the country are currently imposed a five percent tariff under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - Korea FTA.

As the government is studying whether it would allow lower tariff for South Korean vehicles, Rodolfo said the country would push for greater access of agricultural products.

In particular, he said the Philippines would want the 30 percent tariff slapped on its banana exports when these enter South Korea to be reduced.

This, as tariff on banana shipments from Central American countries to South Korea are also being lowered.

“That is what we are worried about so, we’re really pushing for this,” Rodolfo said.

In addition to greater access for agricultural exports including bananas, he said the Philippines would also want to entice South Korean firms to invest in assembly operations for EVs in the country.

“In particular, we’re interested in electric motor and batteries because we have nickel. We have copper wires needed for EV. We might have opportunity there,” he said.

As the Philippines would want to attract Korean firms to bring EV assembly operations in the country, he said discussions for the FTA could cover how the government could help develop the market and infrastructure for such vehicles.

Earlier this month, Republic of Korea Trade Minister Myung-hee Yoo and Philippine Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said the two countries are pursuing a bilateral FTA, with negotiations targeted to be concluded by November this year.

While the Philippines currently has a trade deal with South Korea through the ASEAN - Korea FTA, Rodolfo said having a bilateral trade pact would enable the country to better push for its interests and maximize benefits.

South Korea is the Philippines’ fifth largest trading partner with merchandise goods trade between the two countries reaching $13.7 billion last year.

Top exports of the Philippines to South Korea include bananas, pineapples, and copper, while the main imports of the Philippines from South Korea are industrial products.

At present, the Philippines has FTAs with Japan and the European Free Trade Association which groups Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Apart from South Korea, the Philippines also has multilateral trade agreements with China, India, Japan, and Australia and New Zealand under the ASEAN.  

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