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Philippines expected to ratify South Korea FTA by midyear

REUTERS

By Justine Irish D. Tabile, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINES could ratify the free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea by the middle of the year, with no issues expected to arise from the deal, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Trade Undersecretary and Board of Investments Managing Head Ceferino S. Rodolfo said the timeline takes into account the runup to the South Korean elections.

“The timeline (for the ratification) that we are looking at is by the middle of this year … Because South Korea is also preparing as they have an upcoming election,” Mr. Rodolfo told reporters last week.

South Korea will hold parliamentary elections on April 10 to select a new 300-member National Assembly, the country’s unicameral legislature.

The Philippines and South Korea signed the free trade deal in September after four years of negotiations.

Under the Philippine Constitution, international agreements and treaties require the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senate for ratification or to be effective.

Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri has said that the FTA was likely receive ratification in January this year. However, the Senate has not yet sponsored a resolution to ratify the agreement.

Asked if there are possible snags, Mr. Rodolfo said both sides produced a focused deal acceptable to both sides.

“We don’t expect any issue because the FTA with South Korea is very targeted and focused. And we know what we want and we also know what they want,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

“And we are also preparing ahead of it. For example, we are already tweaking the incentive regime for plantations so that the companies can take advantage of it,” he added.

Under the FTA, the Philippines will be granted tariff elimination on 1,531 lines of agricultural goods, of which 1,417 lines will be removed upon entry into force (EIF) of the bilateral FTA. Among the Philippines’ top goals are the export of more bananas, processed pineapple and other fruits to South Korea. 

Meanwhile, the FTA also led to tariff elimination for 9,909 lines of industrial goods, of which 9,747 lines are set for tariff elimination upon EIF as South Korea seeks to expand its automakers’ footprint in the Philippines.

“The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of the Philippines is very active in terms of development and technical cooperation,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

“This is not just on FTA, these cooperation activities that would allow us to take advantage of the FTA are already being undertaken ahead of the FTA,” he added.

The DTI entered a partnership with Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology to develop an origin management system and an artificial intelligence-enabled harmonized system (HS) classification tool that will enable exporters to determine the HS codes for their products.

The partnership will run until December 2025 and is known as the Origin Management System for the Promotion of FTAs in the Philippines project.

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