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Lee: Protecting ’socially weak’ top government priority

President Lee Myung-bak said Thursday that one of his government’s top priorities is to protect "socially weak" people, amid calls from small merchants for further cuts in the commission rates that credit card firms levy on retailers.

“We believe we have to protect the socially weak and the government is making best efforts for this,” Lee said during a meeting with about 40 small merchants organized to discuss government policy regarding them, according to senior presidential press secretary Choe Guem-nak.

Participants talked mostly about credit card fees and financial services support, Choe said.

Financial Services Commission Chairman Kim Seok-dong told them that credit card firms agreed recently to lower fees to below 1.8 percent for retailers with annual sales of 200 million won ($175,924) or lower. A 2.32 percent fee is charged to retailers with sales exceeding 200 million won.

Kim said the government will continue to assess whether card fees are appropriate.

Lee sought to dispel concern among small business people that a free trade agreement with the United States could hurt their livelihoods, saying that grape farmers, who had worried about the country’s FTA with Chile, have overcome challenges and improved their competitiveness with the development of new varieties.

The government will study ways to help support small businesses so that the trade pact with the U.S. could become an opportunity for them to strengthen their competitiveness, Lee said. (Yonhap News)