MANILA – Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez expects to open up the South Korean market to more Philippine products other than traditional agricultural goods, with the free trade deal which is targeted to be signed this November.
During the Philippine-Korea Business Forum here on Thursday, Lopez said the Philippine and South Korean teams are expected to complete the negotiations and basic terms of the free trade agreement (FTA) by September.
“Major agreements on what products are included, the tariff reduction program, the basic terms, of course, that you have to agree on so you can work on the text, the components. The target (signing will be in) November, that should be the highlight of the (President Rodrigo Duterte’s) visit; that there is a new FTA,” he told reporters.
Lopez reiterated the country’s original intention to have lower tariffs particularly for bananas at about 5 percent in line with other countries.
“As reciprocity, in some products, we give 5-percent tariffs on the fruits-strawberry, pears para mababa na ang bigay natin na tariffs (so we can give lower tariffs). Gusto natin is (We want) reciprocity, kaya naman open sila (so they are open to that),” he added.
Lopez said the Philippines intends to reduce its trade deficit with South Korea.
In 2018, Philippine imports from South Korea reached USD12.037 billion, while exports were at USD3.569 billion.
During the forum, the trade chief said the Philippines is the biggest supplier of bananas and pineapples to Korea.
Apart from these products, Lopez urged Korean businessmen to consider other Philippine food products like canned tuna, chicken and dried fruits.
“We are also pushing for organic and natural products like food and healthcare products as well as design-driven products like furniture, garments and chemicals. For your consideration as well are electronic parts and components and software and game development, among others,” he added. (PNA)