Seoul and Manila sign free trade agreement

SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) – South Korea has entered into a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Philippines, which is expected to strengthen relations with the Southeast Asian country and help diversify its commercial portfolio, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said on Tuesday.

Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo and his Philippine counterpart Ramon Lopez announced the conclusion of the bilateral FTA and signed their joint statement in a virtual meeting, according to the ministry.

The two sides began negotiations in June 2019 and held five rounds of formal talks before reaching the deal.

This is South Korea’s fifth bilateral FTA with member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia.

“The agreement should help increase our access to this young and dynamic market,” the ministry said in a statement. “It will also serve as a basis for more extensive bilateral cooperation in various fields such as healthcare, electric vehicles and climate change.”

Under the partnership, the Philippines will remove tariffs on 96.5 percent of all products traded and South Korea on 94.8 percent, according to the ministry.

Manila has notably agreed to remove barriers on South Korean cars and auto parts, which should help ensure the competitiveness of South Korean products in the market, according to the ministry.

Asean includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.