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Committee to discuss U.S. FTA bill Thursday

The National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee will discuss the long-disputed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement bill in its general meeting on Thursday, according to its chairman.

“The U.S. Congress is expected to pass its bill within the week, and parties have agreed to follow suit,” said Grand National Party Rep. Nam Kyung-pil in the party’s Supreme Council meeting on Monday.

“Now that the ruling and opposition parties have reached an agreement (to handle the bill to coincide with the U.S. ratification), discussions should begin with little trouble.”

President Lee Myung-bak, who is scheduled to hold his summit talks with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday, called for parties to speed up the ratification process in his speech read by Prime Minister Kim Hwank-sik on his behalf in the parliament’s plenary session on Monday.

Rep. Nam also pledged to embrace opposition parties’ demands and work on further measures to protect small and medium-sized businesses from possible damage.

“The Korea-U.S. FTA was a project propelled by former President Roh Moo-hyun and I believe that the main opposition Democratic Party is not fundamentally against its key content,” said Rep. Nam.

“I urge the DP to look back on the former president’s intentions and not to politicize the issue as part of election campaigns.”

Strict measures will be taken if the left-wing minority Democratic Labor Party resorts to physical resistance to block the ratification process, he added.

The GNP lawmaker also urged Park Won-soon, the liberal bloc’s unified candidate for Seoul mayor, to clarify his stance on the FTA.

“Park has not yet clarified his opinion on the FTA, which is one of the major political tasks for Seoul’s mayor,” Nam said.

By Bae Hyun-jung (