By: Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines, SEOUL

The Philippine Embassy, led by H.E. Ambassador Maria Theresa B. Dizon-De Vega and Commercial Counsellor Jose Ma. Dinsay, attended the ceremony of the announcement of the conclusion of the negotiations of the Philippines and ROK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) today, 26 October 2021.

The signing ceremony was done in hybrid format, with Philippine Trade Minister Secretary Ramon Lopez signing in Manila and ROK Trade Minister Yeo Han Koo leading the in-person signing ceremony in Seoul. During his remarks, Secretary Lopez thanked Trade Minister Yeo for his leadership and dedication to the PH-ROK FTA. The Philippines also credited the substantial conclusion of the PH-ROK FTA through the hard work and persistence of both sides' negotiating teams.

Secretary Lopez added that both parties were able to achieve a mutually beneficial and a high level of liberalization on Trade in Goods which will stimulate trade and increase investments from Korea and vice versa. Secretary Lopez also thanked the ROK for accepting all of the Philippines' proposals under the economic and technical chapter, especially on increased cooperation in public health emergencies. The FTA, together with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, represents a more robust, resilient economic partnership between the Philippines and the Republic of Korea.

In his congratulatory remarks, ROK Trade Minister Yeo Han Koo expressed deep appreciation for the hard work of trade negotiators for a timely conclusion of the PH-ROK FTA. According to Minister Yeo, negotiations were officially launched in June 2019, and since then negotiators worked tirelessly for a mutually beneficial outcome despite challenges posed by the pandemic.

Trade Minister Yeo also announced that the Philippines and Korea agreed on a higher level of market opening than the ASEAN-ROK FTA currently in place and the RCEP awaiting implementation. He expressed that with the PH-ROK FTA, "Korean people can enjoy Philippine bananas at low price with better quality."

The PH-ROK FTA demonstrates both countries' strong commitment to economic growth through industrial development and is expected to substantially expand trade and investment between the two countries, giving a much-needed boost to economic recovery and a way towards sustainable economic growth.

Both sides prepared an economic and technical cooperation chapter in the FTA covering a diverse range of areas, with ROK committing institutional support and capacity building in smart farms, film production, and e-vehicles. Clauses on public health emergencies, vaccine production, and climate change are also included in the PH-ROK FTA text, providing a solid foundation in response to new and emerging issues. Clinical trials on the production of vaccines and continued cooperation between PH-ROK defense industries are also in the pipeline through this FTA.

Trade Minister Yeo also greatly appreciated the support from Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, noting that, "Once a friend, always a friend, however, the Philippines is more than just a friend, it is a brother country." He also reiterated that the FTA will broaden the future for the Philippines and the Republic of Korea, paving the way for shared prosperity.