SEOUL, June 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea officially announced the start of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the Philippines on Monday as part of efforts to strengthen economic ties with the Southeast Asian country.
During a meeting here, Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and her Philippine counterpart Ramon Lopez set the goal of completing the free trade negotiations by November this year, in tune with South Korea's summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries here.
"By removing tariffs and non-tariff barriers, the FTA will also further promote the economic cooperation between the two countries," Yoo said.
Trade volume between the two has been expanding sharply over the past years, reaching US$15.6 billion in 2018, up 67 percent from $9.3 billion posted in 2010, according to Seoul's trade ministry.
South Korea's exports to the Philippines reached $12 billion in 2018, up 13.6 percent from a year earlier. The Southeast Asian country is South Korea's fifth-largest trading partner among the ASEAN countries.
Semiconductors, petrochemical goods and automobiles were among major export products. In return, South Korea mostly imports agricultural products from the Philippines, the ministry said.
Aside from its FTA with ASEAN, Seoul has been seeking to sign separate deals with individual members for more detailed and customized trade terms.
South Korea already clinched FTAs with Vietnam and Singapore, and is currently FTA talks with Malaysia and Indonesia as well. If all talks under way are successful, South Korea will have FTA deals with all of its top five trading partners in Southeast Asia.
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