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Free trade deal with South Korea seen by 1st quarter 2021

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is hopeful negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea will be concluded within the first quarter of 2021.

“Hopefully, it will be completed in the first quarter of next year,” Trade Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty told reporters.

He cited two remaining issues that need to be addressed.

In particular, the parties still have to complete a chapter in economic and technical cooperation, which he said would be easy to do as it is just a matter of fine-tuning the provision.

The other issue that is more complicated to resolve is on market access.

“We have yet to receive, I would say, a reasonable offer, a good offer from Korea. We have some requests that they have not granted yet,” Gepty said.

Among the products being pushed by the Philippines for greater market access in South Korea are tropical fruits like bananas, mangoes and pineapples and other agricultural products.

Bananas are of particular interest to the Philippines as those shipped by the country are slapped with a 30 percent tariff when they enter South Korea, higher than that of Central America and Vietnam’s.

South Korea has eliminated the tariff for Peru’s banana shipments, while other Central American countries will be getting the same benefit by next year.

As for Vietnam, it will start enjoying the zero duty for banana exports to South Korea by 2024.

Gepty said discussions on the Philippines’ request for South Korea to bring down the tariff for bananas continues.

He said South Korea is pushing for greater market access for its industrial products, including auto and auto parts to the Philippines through the FTA.

Talks for the FTA between the Philippines and South Korea were launched in June last year.

At that time, both the Philippines and South Korea targeted to complete and sign the deal by November of the same year.

The parties were unable to meet the target and signed an early achievement package for the FTA in November last year instead, having completed the chapter on competition.

Total trade between the Philippines and South Korea was valued at $11.44 billion last year.

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