FTA signing with South Korea expected by November — DTI

A FREE trade agreement (FTA) between the Philippines and South Korea is expected to be signed by November, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“The feedback that I got from the team that is working on (the FTA) is that the target date for signing is November this year,” Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual told reporters on the sidelines of the Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines’ 26th General Membership Meeting in Makati City late Wednesday.

The Philippines and South Korea began FTA negotiations in June 2019 and concluded in October 2021.

Once in force, the FTA is expected to generate more investment and jobs, alongside expanded trade.

Some of the Philippine products covered by the FTA are banana, pineapple, and other tropical fruit. South Korean products that will enjoy free-trade privileges include vehicles and auto parts.

In October, the DTI announced that Philippine banana exports to South Korea will be charged zero duties in five years while processed pineapple exports will be duty-free in seven years.

It added that the tariffs on some South Korean automotive parts will be eliminated in five years.

Mr. Pascual said it is also possible to elevate the investment promotion and protection agreement (IPPA) between the Philippines and Israel into an FTA.

“Everything is possible. I hope we can build up the trade between the two countries,” Mr. Pascual said.

The Philippines and Israel signed their IPPA on June 7.

“Israeli investors and businesses may continue to find the Philippines a suitable destination for investments a source of a talented (workers); and an enabling environment with a robust regime for strategic trade management and intellectual property and data protection,” Mr. Pascual said.

Mr. Pascual said he hopes to start FTA negotiations with other countries like the US.

“We don’t have an FTA with the US yet; we don’t have an FTA with the European Union yet,” Mr. Pascual said.

He also confirmed that the renewal of Philippine participation in the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is under negotiation.  

“We have a team already talking to the US counterparts on that,” Mr. Pascual said.

Eligibility for the GSP expired at the end of 2020. The GSP program permitted duty-free entry of more than 5,000 Philippine products into the US, such as electronics and agricultural products. 

Separately, Mr. Pascual confirmed that the DTI is currently reviewing the suggested retail price (SRP) list for school supplies.

He said that the DTI is aiming to release the SRP before the start of five-days-a-week in-person classes by November. The formal start of the 2022-2023 school year is Aug. 22.

“I saw the SRP, the range is very wide. It should include specifications (of various products). It does not indicate the type of notebook or how many leaves,” Mr. Pascual said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave