THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said South Korea has declared its readiness to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Philippines, which is still working on domestic approval processes which could take two months.
“(The Philippines-South Korea FTA) could be signed within the next two months,” Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo told reporters on the sidelines of the International Tobacco Agricultural Summit in Taguig City last week.
He added that formal discussions for other proposed trade deals with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India could begin within the year.
According to Mr. Rodolfo, “South Korea has sent a letter to us saying that they are ready to sign and that they have finished the domestic process. It is now up to us. We are completing the certificates of concurrence (CoC) so that we can get the signing authority,” Mr. Rodolfo said.
“The process changed. Before, we needed to get signing authority, which will be signed by the Trade Secretary, and then it will return to the President to be ratified, and that is when we will get the CoC. But now, the Office of the President (OP) wants, out of prudence, is that before the signing authority is given, the CoC is already there. It is front-loaded,” he added.
FTA negotiations between the Philippines and South Korea started in June 2019 and ended in October 2021.
Some of the Philippine products expected to benefit from the FTA with South Korea include banana, pineapple, and other tropical fruit, while South Korean vehicles and auto parts are expected to gain expanded market access.
Mr. Rodolfo said a trade deal with the UAE will take the form of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA).
“We are already preparing for the Philippines-UAE CEPA. The next step is to start the negotiations. It could happen within the year,” Mr. Rodolfo said.
In February 2022, the Philippines and the UAE signed the joint statement formally announcing the intent to pursue a CEPA.
According to Mr. Rodolfo, some of the Philippine products that could benefit from a CEPA include consumer durables, garments, leather products, halal food products, and tropical fruit.
He added that the UAE could also become an investor in the Philippine renewable energy sector.
“The UAE is more service-driven. They are really more of a market,” Mr. Rodolfo said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rodolfo said that scoping discussions for the proposed preferential trade agreement (PTA) between the Philippine and India could also start within this year.
He disclosed that the talks have been delayed due to the pandemic.
“Within this year, we could begin the scoping for the PTA negotiations,” Mr. Rodolfo said.
For the PTA talks, Mr. Rodolfo said the Philippines is seeking increased trade in agricultural products.
“We will also push for some provision to ensure that we have access to critical Indian products. There should be no imposed export distinction,” Mr. Rodolfo said.
Last month, the Indian government banned exports of non-basmati white rice to preserve its domestic supply. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave