S. Korea to ratify free trade pact with PH soon: envoy

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

December 5, 2023, 6:42 pm

MANILA – South Korea is eager to see increased trade and investment with the Philippines, Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Sang-hwa said Tuesday as he conveyed Seoul’s intention to ratify its recently signed free trade agreement with Manila “soon”.

In a reception at his residence in Makati, Lee said the Senate of the Philippines has also assured him that it would concur in the deal’s ratification soon.

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said Manila is classifying the Philippine-Korea FTA as a “treaty,” which requires legislative concurrence after executive ratification.

“[W]e have signed a free trade agreement just this September. Korea will ratify the agreement soon, and I’ve been assured by the Philippine Senate to do the same soon,” Lee said.

“With this win-win agreement, our two countries’ trade and investment are set to increase in the coming years,” he added.

Lee said South Korea would also “strongly support” the Philippine government’s efforts to improve its ease of doing business environment.

Under the agreement, South Korea will lift tariffs on 94.8 percent of Philippine products while the country will open its market on 96.5 percent of Korean products.

The FTA will immediately eliminate the tariff on cars from South Korea upon the deal’s entry into force while tariff on car parts will be removed in five years.

Tariffs for Philippine bananas and processed pineapple will also be gradually eliminated.

The FTA signing last September came more than a year after Manila and Seoul concluded negotiations in October 2021, and did some “legal scrubbing” on the deal’s concluded chapter texts.

As the two nations mark 75 years of diplomatic relations in 2024, Lee also hopes South Korea can become a close partner of the Philippines in its push to increase the share of renewable energy in its power mix.

“We hope that there will be more progress in the two countries’ collaboration in high-efficiency clean energy sources such as nuclear power and hydrogen technology. And we also look to intensify cooperation in critical minerals,” he said.

Lee also conveyed South Korea’s interest to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization.

“[W]e believe that for the modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces, there is no other friend who has more experience and track record for cooperation in this area. Korea is the most well-prepared and ready partner,” he added.

Under South Korea’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, Lee said Seoul seeks to take on a “stronger role and responsibility in upholding and enhancing a rules-based order” the region.

“In doing so, we accord priority to fostering close partnership with our friends, including the Philippines, who share core values, such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” he said. (PNA)