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Parties fail to move FTA bill forward

Despite a flurry of meetings on Monday, rival political parties failed to move forward a long-pending motion to ratify the Korea-U.S Free Trade Agreement.

Opposition lawmakers physically obstructed a session of a parliamentary committee on foreign trade, where the FTA bill was scheduled to be handled. 

GNP Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs and trade committee, denounce opposition parties Monday for sabotaging the committee session which was to deal with the Korea-U.S. FTA bill. (Yonhap News)
GNP Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs and trade committee, denounce opposition parties Monday for sabotaging the committee session which was to deal with the Korea-U.S. FTA bill. (Yonhap News)


“I am not going to push anymore to hold a session today, causing a physical clash between members,” Rep. Nam Kyung-pil of the ruling Grand National Party, the committee’s chair, said outside the meeting room.

Rep. Nam and other GNP members of the committee couldn’t start the session because opposition members physically occupied the room. 

The ruling party has warned that it will pass the bill unilaterally to make it ready for a final floor vote if it has to.

Before the tussle at the committee room, leaders of the GNP and its archrival Democratic Party had pressed hard for a breakthrough, holding a series of meetings between themselves and their members. 

In a late night meeting Sunday, floor leaders of the two largest parties worked out a compromise, which includes some additional support measures for farmers and other local small and mid-sized firms expected to be affected by the FTA.

The two whips -- Rep. Hwang Woo-yea of the GNP and Rep. Kim Jin-pyo of the DP -- also managed to narrow their differences over a key issue in the Investor-State Dispute settlement rules.  

According to their agreement, Seoul will initiate talks with Washington to address concerns raised by the DP regarding the ISD system, and to have the latter recognize products made in Gaeseong, an inter-Korean industrial park in North Korea, as South Korean. 

The talks should start within three months of the FTA going into effect, according to the agreement. 

The U.S. Congress ratified its part of the deal last month.

Lawmakers of the DP, in a meeting Monday, refused to accept the compromise between their floor leaders and demanded that the parliament pass the FTA without the ISD clauses. 

The DP and other opposition groups claim that the ISD clauses have the potential to cause legal disputes with U.S. investors who want the Korean government to scrap its protection policies for small local firms and retailers.

The GNP harshly criticized the DP for the rejection, saying the opposition is refusing to make any concessions, while the GNP accepted many of its demands.

“The opposition’s demands are just too much. We can’t accept it,” Rep. Hwang said.

“The FTA must take effect on Jan. 1. A delay in ratification will harm the national interest.”

The DP and other opposition parties earlier agreed to cooperate to block any unilateral move by the GNP to ratify the deal. 

The Korea-U.S. FTA was first signed in 2007 and then modified last year. Korea’s opposition groups claim that the balance of interests swung in favor of the U.S. during the re-negotiation, which was initiated at the request of the U.S.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)

<관련기사>

야당, 외통위원장 방에서 철야 농성



민주당과 민주노동당은 31일 밤 한나라당의  한 ㆍ미 자유무역협정(FTA) 비준동의안 강행 처리 가능성에 대비해 국회 본청 4층 외통 위원장실에서 철야 농성에 들어갔다.

민노당 강기갑 의원은 이날 오후 외통위 전체회의에서 한나라당의 비준안 처리 시도가 무산된 이후 외통위원장실에 홀로 남아 농성을 벌였다.

강 의원은 기자들과 만나 "한나라당이 언제 어떻게 할 지 몰라 아무래도 밤을 새워야 할 것 같다"고 말했다.

그는 벽에 `국민주권 포기서민ㆍ서민생활 위협ㆍ양극화 반대, 졸솔적인 한ㆍ미 FTA 강행처리에 반대한다'고 적힌 현수막을 내걸었다.

민주당도 이종걸 전혜숙 김진애 의원이 `첫 주자'로 나서는 등 소속 의원들이 번갈아가며 철야 농성에 나서기로 했다.

이와 함께 민주당은 영등포당사에서 손학규 대표 주재로 최고위원회의를 열어 `

선(先) 협상ㆍ후(後) 비준' 원칙을 재확인하고 추후 한나라당의 강행 처리 시도 시 대응방안을 모색했다. (연합뉴스)

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