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Obama lauds S. Korea for wider access to broadband Internet

WASHINGTON, (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday called for more investment in building infrastructure to catch up with South Korea and other outperforming countries.

In a message to Congress attached to his budget for the 2012 fiscal year, Obama said the U.S. "lags behind other nations when it comes to the infrastructure of the future," noting that "only 63 percent of American households subscribe to high-speed, broadband Internet compared to 95 percent in South Korea and 77 percent in the Netherlands."

The US$3.7 trillion budget for the fiscal year beginning in October features less domestic and defense spending to reduce record budget deficits and encourages investment in research and development, education and transportation.


It is the second time since late last month that Obama discussed South Korea's access to high-speed broadband Internet.

Obama made similar remarks in his nationally televised State of the Union address.

"Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped," he said at the time. "South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports."

The government of South Korea, one of the most densely wired countries in the world, last month revealed ambitious plans to invest heavily in an effort to lead the global mobile communications industry by 2015.

The plan calls for the development of a fourth-generation Long Term Evolution-Advanced system coupled with wireless broadband systems to offer the best mobile communication service.

In the message to Congress, Obama also stressed the need for early ratification of the free-trade agreement with South Korea as a means of creating jobs by doubling exports within five years.

"My administration has moved aggressively to open markets abroad and boost exports of American-made goods and services, signing a new trade agreement with South Korea, the 12th-largest economy in the world," he said. "Last month, I laid out a balanced approach to regulation that is pragmatic, driven by data, and that will protect the health and well-being of the American people and help lay the groundwork for economic growth and job creation."

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said last week that the Obama administration will present the revised Korea FTA to Congress within weeks, hoping Congress will be able to approve it "this spring."

Seoul and Washington last week exchanged the supplemental agreement reached in December to address U.S. concerns over the lopsided auto trade, which has served as the biggest hurdle to getting congressional approval of the Korea FTA since it was signed in 2007 under the Bush administration.

The revised deal calls for a delayed phaseout of auto tariffs, among other things, in return for Washington's concessions on pork and medicine.

The Korea FTA was negotiated under the Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002, which mandates Congress to vote yes or no without any amendments within 90 days of the deal's submission.

The fast-track authority, meant to facilitate negotiation of trade deals, was suspended in 2007 by the Democratic-controlled Congress.

<관련 기사>

<오바마, 2012 예산안서 한국 언급>

초고속 인터넷 보급률, 한미FTA 소개

(워싱턴=연합뉴스) 버락 오바마 미국 대통령은 14일  2012회계연도 예산안을 의회에 제출하면서 한.미 자유무역협정(FTA)의 중요성과 한국의 높은

초고속 인터넷 보급률을 언급했다.

이날 의회에 제출된 2012 회계연도 예산안 자료에 따르면 오바마 대통령은  '세계 경제에서 경쟁해 승리하기'라는 제하의 문건에서 21세기 인프라 구축을 위해서는 초고속 인터넷망의 확충이 필요하다고 강조했다.

오바마 대통령은 구체적으로 "미국 가정의 초고속 인터넷, 브로드밴드 가입률은 고작 63%에 그치고 있는 반면, 한국은 95%에 달한다"고 소개했다.

오바마 대통령은 지난 10일 미시간주를 방문해서도 한국의 초고속 인터넷  환경을 선진사례로 언급한 적이 있다.

오바마 대통령은 의회에 보내는 '예산 메시지'를 통해서는 "우리 행정부는 세계 제12위의 경제국인 한국과 새로운 무역협정에 서명하는 등 미국 상품 및 용역의  수출을 늘리고 해외 시장을 개방하려는 노력을 적극적으로 취하고 있다"고 강조했다.

특히 오바마 대통령은 '한.미FTA'를 별도의 소주제로 다루면서 "우리는 한국과 새로운 무역합의에 도달함으로써 중요한 시장의 개방을 이뤄냈으며, 다른 나라가 우리에 앞서 한국에서 우대를 받는 일을 막게 됐다"고 밝혔다.

한미FTA 내의 관세 인하만으로도 한국에 대한 미국의 수출이 연간 110억 달러 늘어나게 되고, 미국이 높은 경쟁력을 갖추고 있는 서비스 분야에서는 5천600억달러의 시장개방 효과가 있게 된다는 미국 국제무역위원회(ITC)의 추계도 '예산 메시지'에 반영됐다.

또한 '예산안 메시지'는 한미FTA가 7만개 이상의 일자리 창출에 기여하게 되며, 노동자들의 권리가 높은 수준에서 보호받게 된다는 점도 강조했다.