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Phl-Korea partnership gets boost

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo said Mr. Duterte would also seek to further improve trade relations between Manila and South Korea.

Francis Wakefield

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President Rodrigo Duterte will be exploring fresh partnerships and cooperation with South Korea in the ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea (ASEAN-RoK) Commemorative Summit in Busan.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo said Mr. Duterte would also seek to further improve trade relations between Manila and South Korea.

He said the President safely arrived in South Korea yesterday morning for the two-day ASEAN-RoK Consultative Summit.

“On top of being a major trading partner with the Republic of Korea, the President aims to explore further avenues of partnership and cooperation in matters of mutual concern and benefit,” Panelo said.

The official said the summit will also be a venue for the President to discuss with other regional leaders the ways to address new world challenges affecting the region.

“This Commemorative Summit is intended as a venue for the President to discuss with other regional heads of state ways to address new world challenges, such as protectionism, non-conventional security threats, transnational crimes and cybercrime, among others,” Panelo explained.

He added that Mr. Duterte will also hold bilateral talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in where several agreements are expected to be signed. The bilateral meet is the third between the two leaders.

According to Panelo, Duterte landed in Busan, South Korea on Monday morning to begin the first day of the summit and other related special events and activities.

The President was met at the Gimhae Air Base by South Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lee Tae-ho, Deputy Director-General of Public Diplomacy/Task Force Philippines team leader Kyun Jongho and Ambassador to the Philippines Han Dong-Man.

Also present in welcoming the President were Philippine Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Noe Wong and chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje.

Free trade deal

Earlier, Wong said the Philippines is pushing for the conclusion of a free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea to slash import tariffs on certain products, particularly bananas from the Philippines.

South Korea imposes 30 percent tariff on Philippine-produced bananas while ASEAN-member countries enjoy better preferential treatment, he said.

“Well, that is really why we are really pushing for this resumption or completion of this free trade agreement. But you know, it’s a basis for negotiation,” Wong said in a press conference on Sunday.

Banana growers are concerned that shares in the South Korean market may be reduced as Central American economies secured trade deals with Seoul that reduced, if not eliminated, tariff on their banana.

South Korea’s trade deal with the five Central American nations took effect in October.

The country’s negotiators want the current 30 percent tax on banana shipments to South Korean markets reduced to at least five percent, if not zero.

FTA discussions between the Philippines and South Korea were launched last June this year.

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