The Korea Herald


GNP moves to push FTA ratification bill

By Korea Herald

Published : Nov. 1, 2011 - 17:12

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DP demands Lee’s word on ISD deletion

The Grand National Party on Tuesday was moving to have a floor vote on whether to ratify a free trade agreement with the U.S., as a parliamentary subcommittee was unable to deliberate the bill due to strong opposition objections.

According to reports, GNP leaders were discussing ways to have the FTA bill by-pass the foreign affairs and trade committee. The committee delayed handling of the FTA ratification bill to Wednesday, after opposition members physically obstructed a committee session Monday to prevent the bill’s passage to a plenary session.

The main opposition Democratic Party demanded President Lee Myung-bak talk to U.S. President Barack Obama and drop a set of clauses about an investor-state disputes settlement mechanism from the trade agreement

“The DP will cooperate in the parliamentary ratification of the Korea-U.S. FTA, only after President Lee gives his word that he would re-negotiate the Investor-State Dispute settlement clauses with U.S. President Barack Obama in the upcoming G20 summit in France,” said Rep. Kim Jin-pyo, the floor leader of the main opposition party.

Earlier, Lee left for Russia for talks with President Dmitry Medvedev. He will travel to Cannes late Wednesday for the two-day G20 meeting with world leaders, including Obama.

The ISD clauses would allow investors to by-pass the domestic legal system and sue governments before international arbitration panels, if investors perceive that state policies jeopardize company profits.

The DP and other liberal opposition parties vowed to block the deal’s ratification unless they are deleted from the agreement.

The ruling GNP harshly criticized the opposition for the “unreasonable” demand.

“The GNP accepted most of the opposition’s demands, but the DP is refusing to make any concession,” said Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, the GNP’s floor leader.

Reps. Hwang and Kim had worked out a compromise on Sunday night, but the DP lawmakers rejected it, rigidly sticking to their opposition to the ISD mechanism.

With the compromise deal botched, the rival parties appeared to be heading for a head-on collusion.

GNP leaders said opposition groups are leaving them with no option but to unilaterally pass the bill.

The government party controls an absolute majority of 168 seats in the 299-seat unicameral parliament.

At the Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, ruling and opposition lawmakers exchanged barbs, blaming each other for the deadlock.

“The FTA ratification bill won’t be on the table until the committee finishes deliberation of the Foreign Ministry budget plan,” said GNP Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, who chairs the committee.

“But I think that we had enough discussions on the FTA and that proceeding to handle the bill is in accordance with the democratic principles,” he said.

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

By Lee Sun-young