THE signing of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the Philippines and South Korea is expected by June or July, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“Our target is June/July for the signing (of the FTA),” Trade Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty told reporters via Viber on Thursday in response to a request for updates on the FTA.

In November, the DTI had set a signing target of the first quarter of 2023.

According to Mr. Gepty, the legal groundwork to clear the way for signing has been completed, and lacks only a few more steps prior to signing.

“Before the signing, Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual needs authority from President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. We will coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs on this. In support of the request, we will attach the text of the agreement, advantages, benefits, and other salient points of the agreement,” he added.

The FTA negotiations between the Philippines and South Korea began in June 2019 and ended in October 2021.

Some of the Philippine products expected to benefit from the FTA are banana, pineapple, and other tropical fruits, while South Korean vehicles and auto parts are expected to gain more access to the Philippine market.

The DTI said October 2021 that Philippine banana exports to South Korea will go to zero tariffs in five years while processed pineapple exports will be duty-free in seven. Currently, Philippine banana exports to South Korea are charged a 30% tariff.

The tariff on some South Korean auto parts will also be removed in five years under the FTA.

Mr. Gepty said that the Philippines is also working on other trade deals, such as the Philippines-United Arab Emirates comprehensive economic partnership agreement and upgrades to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)+1 trade agreements such as the ASEAN-China free trade area and ASEAN-Canada FTA.

He said negotiations have concluded for the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA, which was finalized in November and is also expected to be signed this year.

“The other FTAs also in the ASEAN… are now being studied and evaluated for possible upgrades. In other words, for the ASEAN region and the Philippines as far as trade policy direction is concerned, it is very clear that we want to expand our FTA network.  — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave