PH seeks lower tariffs on agri exports to South Korea

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-in witness the signing of the agreement between Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and The Export-Import Bank of Korea Chairman and President Eun Sung-Soo following the bilateral meeting at the Blue House in Seoul on June 4, 2018. The agreement is on the loan for the New Cebu International Container Port Project. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 5 June) – The Philippines has asked South Korea to lower tariffs on the country’s agricultural exports such as banana and pineapple from the current 25-30 percent to 5 percent, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

In a press briefing at the Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, Lopez said the country seeks to increase the volume of its exports to South Korea by relaxing the hefty taxes on agricultural products that are not yet covered by the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

The official said the 5-percent tariff rate is similar to the tariff level that the Philippines imposes on imported goods from South Korea.

“In other words, tayo po nagbaba na ng taripa (We have already cut tariff rates). So we are basically asking for reciprocity as to the products that would enter South Korea,” he added.

Lopez said the Philippines is currently South Korea’s largest supplier of banana, but its market share is threatened by suppliers from other banana-producing countries.

He said reducing the tariff rate would allow more agricultural exports to enter the South Korean market.

Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association executive director Stephen Antig said on Tuesday that it will be good if the South Korean government will allow the removal or reduction of tariffs since it is the third or fourth largest buyer of bananas from the Philippines.

Lopez said they discussed with their counterparts during bilateral meetings a plan to revive the Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation and the possible development of a preferential trading agreement that will improve market access of Philippine agricultural products to South Korea.

South Korea and the Philippines signed five bilateral agreements: memorandum of understanding (MOU) for cooperation on the expansion of renewable energy development, MOU on scientific and technological cooperation, loan agreement on the new Cebu International Container Port, MOU between the Department of Transportation and the Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport concerning cooperation in the field of transport, and establishment of the Joint Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez announced that South Korea set aside an official development assistance fund (ODA) worth $1 billion to finance the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program. This is twice the ODA of P500 million from 2011 to 2013.

Dominguez said he assured the South Korean government of “our strict monitoring of these projects to make sure that none of the Korean taxpayers’ money is wasted in corruption and that all the ODA-supported projects will bring lasting benefits to the Filipino people.”

“I expressed the gratitude of the Filipino people for the strong support South Korea extends to our economic modernization. South Korea is firmly committed to the Philippines economic emergence. We are ready to take our place as one of Asia’s tiger economies, and we will forever be grateful for the generous partnership extended by the Korean people,” he added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)