The Philippines, through the Department of Trade and Industry, has renewed its request to the South Korean government to further reduce the tariff rate of Philippine banana exports to the East Asian country.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said he met recently with his South Korean counterpart to discuss lowering the tariff of Philippine bananas entering South Korea. The trade chief and his South Korean counterpart both attended the recent 50th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting and Related Meetings in Singapore.
“[We] renewed [our] request to lower tariff on our banana exports for greater market access in South Korea,” Lopez said in a text message. He did not, however, indicate the suggested new tariff.
“[We have opened] the discussion and we are considering options on a better process moving forward, either bilateral through a preferential trade agreement or under ASEAN-Korea [Free Trade Agreement],” Lopez said. “We will push this forward and give a paper in next two weeks.”
Bananas from the Philippines are currently levied a 30% tariff in South Korea. The Philippines remains the top supplier of the commodity to South Korea, but concerns have been raised as other countries will have their banana exports to South Korea at zero tariff.
“We are still the largest supplier of bananas to South Korea, accounting for over 85% of its banana imports. But other countries [are] trying to increase their shares,” Lopez noted.
The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) earlier said the country is set to lose the competitiveness of its banana exports to South Korea in the coming years as the latter’s trade agreement with other countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, and Vietnam will be eliminating duties on their banana exports to the Asian market starting 2021. South Korea has already removed the tariff for its banana imports from Peru.
“Cheap banana imports from Central America have started to eat into the share of Philippine bananas in the Korean market and these could totally push us out of the picture by 2022, unless we get the same zero-tariff treatment as they do,” PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig said in an earlier statement.
PBGEA said the Philippines exports some 30 million boxes, or 390,000 tons, of bananas to South Korea.