The Korea Herald


FTA submitted to committee

By Korea Herald

Published : Nov. 2, 2011 - 16:04

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Ruling, opposition parties heading for showdown

The ruling Grand National Party on Wednesday moved to ratify a free trade agreement with the U.S. on its own, submitting the bill for a committee-level vote, despite strong resistance from opposition members.

Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, chair of the parliament’s foreign affairs and trade committee and GNP lawmaker, used his authority to put the bill to the table, as opposition members physically obstructed the committee’s session to prevent the deal’s ratification.

“I hereby submit the motion to ratify the Korea-U.S. FTA for deliberation,” Nam said at an annex to the conference room, where opposition members have locked themselves in.

If cleared by the committee, the FTA would head for the final vote at a plenary session. The next plenary sessions are scheduled for Thursday and Nov. 10.

The GNP and opposition parties appeared to be heading for a showdown in the parliamentary floor.

The main opposition Democratic Party vowed to use all possible means to block the GNP’s attempt to unilaterally pass the trade bill. The GNP controls 168 seats in a 299-member unicameral parliament.

Despite a flurry of talks, the two parties remained poles apart on a key issue of whether to delete the Investor-State Dispute settlement clauses from the agreement.

Floor leaders of the GNP and the DP reached a tentative agreement earlier this week to prepare additional safeguards to protect local industries and pave the way for the accord‘s ratification.

However, opposition groups demand the clauses be dropped, claiming that they would allow American investors to dispute the Korean government’s policies for local industries.

The GNP has called the demand “unreasonable,” saying the pact has been long-studied by the Korean side and that the U.S. has already ratified its part of the deal.

The Korea-U.S. FTA was first signed in 2007 and then modified last year. Korea’s opposition groups claim that the balance of interests swung in favor of the U.S. during the re-negotiation, which was initiated at the request of the U.S. The U.S. Congress ratified its part of the deal last month. 

By Lee Sun-young