FREE TRADE negotiations between the Philippines and South Korea could finally be concluded within the next few weeks, Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said.

“We are now also in the final stages towards concluding the FTA (free trade agreement) with Korea. Hopefully this can be done in time for the ASEAN-Korea summit, which will happen towards the end of October,” he said at a European-Philippine business summit Thursday.

“Our projection is that we should be able to substantially conclude the FTA with Korea within a few weeks.”

The countries failed to sign a deal at the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit in 2019. Talks had stalled on items like bananas, for which Philippine producers are seeking lower tariffs, and South Korean auto exports, for which Seoul is seeking greater access.

The Trade department also missed a targeted June 2021 end date.

“I really hope this time, we can conclude it,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

Mr. Rodolfo also said that the Philippines is interested in a digital trade deal with the US.

“With the new administration in the US, we have also not given up on an FTA with the US,” he said.

“Of course, the trade policy direction of the US has somewhat not accommodated this at the moment, but we are keenly looking at what the trade policy moves of the US (are).”

Noting that a bilateral FTA with the US may be ambitious, he said the Philippines can start with a digital trade deal, noting potential convergence between the trade priorities of both economies.

Charles Freeman, senior vice-president for Asia of the US Chamber of Commerce, in June said the two economies should work on a standalone digital trade agreement that could serve as a model for the region while some issues remain unresolved for an FTA.

The Philippines is in talks with India for a preferential trade agreement and has indicated interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. — Jenina P. Ibañez