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DP digs in heels over U.S. FTA bill

Opposition leader calls trade deals more difficult to change than Constitution


The ruling and opposition parties once again clashed on Monday over the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Following the U.S. Congress’ ratification of the bill last week, the ruling Grand National Party urged the parliamentary foreign affairs committee to follow suit, but the main opposition Democratic Party claimed that protective measures for local industries should come first.

“A trade agreement, once ratified, is more difficult to revise than the Constitution,” said DP chairman Rep. Sohn Hak-kyu in the party Supreme Council meeting on Monday.

“We need to think carefully whether it is beneficial for Korea to rush its ratification just because its U.S. counterpart did so.”

Floor leader Rep. Kim Jin-pyo pushed the government to come up with necessary protective measures in the form of legislation and budget allocation before the approval of the bill.

Sohn also spoke directly to President Lee Myung-bak on the issue during the afternoon’s luncheon meeting hosted by Lee to report on the results of his recent summit with U.S. President Barack Obama. In the meeting, he opposed any move to rush the bill through the parliament.

The ruling party, however, blamed the opposition camp for trying to score political points.

“It is inappropriate for the DP and other opposition parties to veto the FTA as its contents were mostly drawn up by the former liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration, not by the current government,” said GNP leader Rep. Hong Joon-pyo.

“The parliamentary approval is no more than an act of formality to confirm the Roh government’s draft plan.”

The party’s floor leader Rep. Hwang Woo-yea also urged the DP to specify their demands regarding the protective measures, so that the issue may pass the parliament by the end of the month.

While parties remained at odds over the bill, the foreign affairs committee held an open forum on Monday with outside panelists speaking for the GNP and the DP respectively.

“We will be open to the opposition camp’s claims and logics, and will not push ahead with the bill approval until reaching a reasonable compromise,” said Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, GNP lawmaker and chairman of the committee.

However, DP panelists ended up leaving the meeting room in the middle of heated debates, in protest at the speech time limits and the ruling party’s uncooperative attitude.

The GNP also pushed Park Won-soon, the liberal bloc’s unified candidate in next week’s Seoul mayoral by-election, to elucidate his stance over the bill’s ratification.

“Even under the Roh government, Park was against the FTA and participated in protest rallies,” said floor leader Hwang. “The trade deal is a key issue for the nation and its capital, and Park should let the voters know how he responds to it.”

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