MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and South Korea have the potential to grow bilateral trade to over $20 billion over the next five years through greater cooperation.
“I think if we try very hard and if we improve the (business) environment, it will not be difficult for us to see two-way trade to surpass $20 billion in the near future… within five years,” South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Hyuk told reporters during the Philippines-Korea Economic Council (Philkorec) Induction of Officers and new members.
Two-way trade between the Philippines and South Korea amounted to around $12 billion last year.
For the countries’ bilateral trade to breach $20 billion in the next five years, Lee said both parties would have to work together in terms of promoting each other’s manufactured goods and services.
Apart from increasing bilateral trade, Lee said there are also opportunities to increase South Korean firms’ investments in the Philippines.
“But this will only be if there is an improved environment for investment, so we want the Philippine government to improve investment environment for foreign companies,” he said.
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For his part, Philkorec chairman Gerardo Garcia told reporters the council plans to organize inbound missions of Korean firms to the country, as well as outbound missions of Philippine firms to South Korea, to promote greater trade and investment relations between the two countries.
The missions would be organized with business groups such as the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Korean Chamber of Commerce Philippines Inc., as well the Department of Trade and Industry and the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
“Hopefully, we can have it on a quarter-to-quarter basis. They come here or we go there,” Garcia said.
Philkorec would focus on promoting opportunities in the following sectors: manufacturing, agriculture and tourism – as investments in such would contribute to job creation and make growth more inclusive.
To strengthen the two countries’ trade and investment ties, PCCI president Alfredo Yao said Philkorec is encouraged to attract Korean firms to consider the Philippines as a manufacturing hub for products for exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The Asean, which would establish an economic community by the end of this year, is seen to open opportunities for businesses operating here given the region’s combined consumer market of over 600 million people.
“PCCI, through our business councils, is actively campaigning for business firms outside of the Asean to use the Philippines as a hub to export and put up their respective plants here so they can enjoy the zero tariff for the products going in and within our Asean brothers,” Yao said.
He said another avenue to further strengthen the two countries’ economic relationship is through better utilization of the provisions of the Asean-Korea Free Trade Agreement which eliminates both tariff and non-tariff barriers as well as promotes the creation of conducive market conditions.
The Philkorec was organized under the auspices of the PCCI, to promote mutually beneficial business opportunities between the Philippines and South Korea.
The PCCI is the country’s largest business organization.