Why the Korean visit is most watched

THE historic visit of President Duterte to Korea bodes very well for “reinvigorating” our trade relations.

Reviewing the numbers, our trade relations with South Korea are lopsided in their favor. We import five times as much as we export to Korea in the total annual trade of about 4.8 B dollars. We import many high-value electronic parts.

This visit is a chance to improve our trade relations by getting the Philippines to export more to Korea.

This is an opportune moment to improve trade relations. Here are the reasons:

First, the new Korean Southward policy can bring unexpected benefits for many ASEAN countries, as Korea will mount its own offensive to strengthen Asian ties particularly with the Philippines, its closest ASEAN neighbor.

At the moment, there are about 300,000 Koreans residing in the Philippines. Koreans are the largest source of foreign tourists, unafraid of our politics and peace and order concerns.

Last year over 1 million Korean tourists visited us, followed closely by the Chinese whose tourist numbers doubled from 2016. More tourists from Korea, China, and Japan are expected this year despite the Boracay closure.

Another development worth exploring is the economic opportunity from the reunification process with Communist North Korea.

A combined population will create a “super economy” of some 75 million people. What this may mean is an economic opportunity to those who can supply the winter season food needs of this new large country.

These are developments in the Philippines, as the nearest ASEAN country to the Korean peninsula can capitalize on.

For many local producers in the Visayas and Mindanao, one particularly interesting outcome of the bilateral meetings between Korea and the Philippines was the renewal of the Joint Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation where tariff concerns can be discussed and addressed.

This can lead to lower tariffs and bigger market access for our agricultural products such as bananas, pineapples, and mangoes. It is notable that many areas in Negros Island are being planted with Cavendish banana. In case of exports increase, incomes on Negros can go up.

Being prime exports, they generate local jobs and increase overall food production, which in turn, can keep prices stable.

We look forward to more exports to Korea. We hope the government can seriously increase exports to Korea.

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