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Assembly to discuss ratifying FTA with EU this week

The Korean parliament will discuss the ratification of Seoul's free trade deal with the European Union (EU) at a plenary session this week, a lawmaker said Monday, after rival parties agreed on related issues.

Rep. Lee Koon-hyon of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) said the National Assembly will discuss ratifying the free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU this Wednesday. Last week, a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and trade approved the ratification motion for the long-stalled trade pact.

Lawmakers agreed on Monday to revise an existing law on regulating large supermarkets that could run against the FTA.

Currently, retail giants known as 'super supermarkets' (SSMs) cannot open in areas within a 500-meter radius of traditional markets for at least three years. Under the revision, the distance cap will increase to a 1-kilometer radius and the restriction period will be five years.

The law, enacted last November, was designed to protect traditional markets from conglomerate-run supermarkets. Rival parties fought over the timing of the revision to this law, as opposition parties argued that opening up the market to European retailers would nullify the impact of the protective measure.

The parties also agreed to increase monetary compensation for farmers if they see prices of agricultural or dairy products drop over the first 10 years after the FTA with the EU takes effect.

Farmers will be eligible for compensation if prices fall below

85 percent of a standard price and they will receive up to 90 percent of their losses in compensation.

Under the current rule on such compensation, farmers become eligible if prices drop below 80 percent of the standard cost, and they may only be compensated for up to 80 percent of the losses.

The FTA bill, if approved in the plenary session, will take effect in July as agreed upon by the two sides. The European Parliament already approved the pact in February.

This FTA will eliminate 98 percent of import duties and other trade barriers in manufactured goods, agricultural products and services between Korea and the EU within the next five years.

The GNP has a majority in the 299-member unicameral parliament. (Yonhap News)

 

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