The Korea Herald


Parties to clash over U.S. FTA again


Published : Sept. 18, 2011 - 19:15

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Opposition parties hang onto hardline position on ratification bill

Ruling and opposition parties are preparing to lock horns once again over the free trade agreement between Korea and the U.S.

Main opposition Democratic Party lawmakers on the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and trade left the meeting room as the Grand National Party submitted the FTA ratification bill to the panel Friday.

The Democratic Party vowed to expose shortcomings in the revisions made to the KORUS FTA and block its ratification while the ruling Grand National Party promised to seek approval from opposition parties in passing the bill at the parliamentary session.

DP lawmakers said that they will confirm a Wikileaks revelation of further FTA concession. Last week, the website released a U.S. diplomatic cable that Kim Jong-hoon, Minister for Trade, on Aug. 29, 2007 told then U.S. Ambassador to Korea, Alexander Vershbow, and then-congressman Earl Pomeroy after the FTA signing that the Korean government would renegotiate tariff rates for rice imports with the U.S. after 2014.

This date is when the suspension of the application of tariffs to rice by the World Trade Organization is to expire. The allegation contradicts the government’s stance that rice tariffs and FTA would be dealt separately.

Rep. Kim Dong-cheol of DP said the information shows Korea’s submissive attitude toward the U.S. “Yes, we do respect Korea-U.S. alliance but this is too much,” he said. He suspected that there are more things behind the FTA deals.

Kim and other opposition lawmakers are also expected to pitch their voices against the GNP’s unilateral reference of the FTA bill. Last Friday, the opposition walked out of the room when Foreign Affairs Minister Kim Sung-hwan explained future procedure of the FTA bill passage and its effect after the reference.

Rep. Yoo Ki-june of the GNP fired back that the credibility of Wikileaks is weak.

“Besides, we have seen FTAs bringing us benefits in the cases of ASEAN states, Chile and Singapore. The bill must be passed,” he said. Rep. Nam Kyung-pil of GNP, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said the bill will not be passed without the consent of the opposition parties.

Meanwhile, U.S. bureaucrats and politicians are also moving for the swift ratification of the FTA.

The Daily Astorian cited Jim Wayman, political counselor for the U.S. Embassy to Korea, saying that it is critical that the Obama administration and Congress start moving soon to ratify the agreement.

“The longer the delay the greater chances of failure. President Lee Myung-bak is strongly behind it and wants to get it done before the state visit on Oct. 13,” he said, while expressing hopes that the Korean government and the National Assembly will pass the deal by the end of the year.

By Bae Ji-sook (