ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
South Korea looks at trade pact with Philippines
South Korea’s Ambassador to the Philippines Hye-Min Lee told The Manila Times that the Asean-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) “may not purely reflect bilateral issues.” Lee said that with trade volumes and investment relations between the Philippines and South Korea at an “all-time high,” it is high time to explore talks for a bilateral FTA.
“I think there is desirability of a bilateral,” Lee said on the sidelines of a forum sponsored by the South Korean embassy and the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
Lee, a former trade official who was part of negotiations for the trade agreements between South Korea and the European Union (EU) as well as the US, said Seoul is eyeing an economic partnership agreement—similar to the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement—with Manila. “Korea can be a good partner,” he said.
The Department of Trade and Industry earlier said the Philippines would prioritize a bilateral trade deal with the EU as well as joining Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement talks with the US.
Lee said an FTA between the Philippines and South Korea will open doors for Filipinos who want to be English language teachers in his home country.
“There is no relevant provision in the Asean-Korea FTA that would allow entry of English teachers from countries like the Philippines where English is an official language,” the envoy said.
Lee said that under his country’s rules, only native speakers of English—those from the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand—can automatically teach the language in South Korea.
Seoul already has a trade agreement with India—where English is not a native tongue but is an official language, like in the Philippines—hence allowing English language teachers from India to gain employment in South Korea, the envoy said.
South Korea already has a bilateral trade agreement with Singapore, and is exploring the possibility of having one with Vietnam, he said.
Lee said South Korean investors are optimistic about the Philippine government’s commitment to improve the business climate.
The envoy said the upcoming projects of Lotte and Kepco as well as potential South Korean-led manufacturing and tourism investments reflect their confidence in the Aquino administration.
South Korea last year was the Philippines’ third biggest source of foreign direct investment as well as the seventh largest trading partner.
About 500,000 South Korean tourists visited the Philippines last year.
So far this year, pledges from South Korean investors have reached P23.8 billion, more than half of total investment approvals.
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