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Parties clash in session on U.S. FTA ratification

Parties once again clashed over the ratification of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement bill during the parliamentary foreign affairs committee meeting on Wednesday, the last day of the August provisional session.

The meeting was scheduled to end in the early afternoon but was extended due to the uncompromising debates between the rival parties, especially as the opposition camp hinted at physical resistance should the ruling party force a vote.

“Our U.S. counterpart is expected to ratify the bill by October at the latest,” said Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, lawmaker of the ruling Grand National Party and chairman of the committee.

“Considering the impending parliamentary investigation of state affairs and the Oct. 26 by-elections for Seoul mayor, we need to move on with the issue.”

Nam also confirmed his earlier pledges not to push ahead with the bill through physical violence and not to have the bill passed before the U.S. Congress ratifies its part.

“I am just suggesting that we fix a schedule in advance for the committee to discuss the bill,” he said.

Rep. Yoo Ki-june, GNP negotiator of the committee, blamed opposition lawmakers for politically vetoing the ratification of a bill which is based on the trade agreement concluded by the former Roh Moo-hyun administration.

The main opposition Democratic Party, however, boycotted the bill ratification meeting, claiming that the trade agreement needs to undergo renegotiation first.

“It is premature to move on to the ratification stage, as the parliament-government FTA consultative body has not yet reached an agreement on the measures on potential FTA-related damage,” said DP negotiator Kim Dong-cheol.

“Even if we agreed to bring the bill to a vote, we may delay the decision later on, should a complete renegotiation with the United States become possible.”

Rep. Song Min-soon of the DP said that the committee may wait until the U.S. Congress confirms its ratification schedule.

For the past months, the DP has adhered to its “10+2” renegotiation plan, demanding the revision of two clauses in the local annexed bill and 10 in the trade agreement itself.

The ruling party, however, denied the option, saying that a fundamental renegotiation with the United States is out of the question.

Some opposition lawmakers, including Reps. Lew Seon-ho of the DP and Kim Sun-dong of the minority Democratic Labor Party, visited the committee chairman’s office earlier in the morning to protest the GNP’s moves on the bill.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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