Philippines seek greater banana market access to South Korea

The Philippines is considering a preferential trade agreement with South Korea to ease access for its banana exports. Alternatively, it may seek to include provisions for banana exports in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) free trade agreement.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said he met recently with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Chun, to explore greater market access for bananas to South Korea, including lower tariffs.

“We are considering options on a better process moving forward, either bilateral through a Preferential Trading arrangement or under ASEAN-Korea,”. Lopez told reporters. “We will push this forward and issue a paper in the next two weeks.”

Lopez noted that the Philippines remains South Korea’s leading banana supplier, accounting for about 85% of the market. South Korea is the Philippines’ third-biggest banana market after Japan and China. However, other countries are trying to increase their market access, possibly leading to stiffer competition in the future.

ASEAN’s FTA with South Korea was signed in 2005. Under the FTA, bananas, including plantains, fresh or dried, are classified as a “sensitive” commodity and its final status has not yet been negotiated.

Peru is expected to be granted zero tariffs by next year, while Vietnam, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Honduras will enjoy the same by 2022. Philippine banana shipments to South Korea are subject to a 30% tariff.

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