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Parliamentary committee passes procedural law on FTAs

SEOUL, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) -- A parliamentary trade committee on Tuesday passed a law on the procedures for signing and implementation of a trade pact, considered a first step to ratifying the long-delayed Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA).

The procedural law makes it mandatory for the government to report important changes of a planned trade agreement to the National Assembly and to take a feasibility study before opening negotiations.

It is what the opposition parties have strongly demanded amid the political standoff over the Seoul-Washington trade pact.

The law will be referred to a plenary session of the National Assembly.

With the passage of the law, hopes are rising that the FTA bill between Seoul and Washington will gain parliamentary approval, as the U.S. Congress passed it almost two weeks ago.

South Korea's ruling party and government have been stepping up efforts to get the deal passed by parliament but the opposition parties are against the agreement, claiming it favors the U.S.

The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) attempted to railroad the bill through the committee but opposition party lawmakers blocked the passage of the bill.

"I demand (the ruling party) stop right here," said Rep. Chung Dong-young of the main opposition Democratic Party. "We haven't received a report about whether Washington's implementing act on the FTA reflects the rights and duties of the agreement."

Committee chairman Nam Kyung-pil of the GNP bowed to the disapproval of the opposition lawmakers and decided not to push forward on passage of the bill.

The agreement, which was first signed in 2007 and then modified last year to address U.S. concerns about its auto industry, has been pending in the parliament's trade committee.

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