[OUTLOOK]Don't emulate Kim Young-sam

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[OUTLOOK]Don't emulate Kim Young-sam

I want to say something that will attract the attention of presidential candidates. No matter who becomes president, he or she will have to decide on one thing immediately after taking the post of president at the end of February next year. That is the "initial offers" on liberalization of trade in services, which the Korean government is required to submit to all its trading partners by March 31, 2003.

Maybe some presidential candidates will try to dodge the issue, saying to themselves that this is no time to think about such potential headaches but to concentrate on election. But they should pay attention to the following facts.

There is currently a common thread in political conversations: "No matter who the next president is, if he manages educational and medical issues well, that will be enough for people to call the president a good president." And as the power of civic groups expands, citizens will not accept without protest practices that are illegal and not transparent. Civic groups are filing many more civil actions with the courts than they did in the past.

Guess what? The initial offers on liberalization of trade in services that the new government has to decide on will have to include offers for the opening of the educational, medical and law services markets.

If the presidential candidates still do not understand what I mean, then they are not sufficiently qualified to be president.

When Kim Young-sam was conducting his presidential campaign, a round of multinational negotiations for trade liberalization, the Uruguay Round, was focusing on the opening of international rice markets. At that time, Mr. Kim declared as a formal campaign promise, "If I become president, I will prevent opening of the rice market at the risk of my post." But, after his election, he said, "I did not know the situation well at that time," damaging his political credibility and throwing Korea's agricultural policy into confusion.

The ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization held in Doha, Qatar, last year launched a new round of multilateral negotiations for trade liberalization. No presidential hopefuls here are making those trade negotiations a campaign issue. That is because the new round of global trade talks is focused more on the opening of service markets, not the agricultural sector. Remember, there are agricultural cooperatives and fisheries cooperatives in Korea that will have a great effect on the election, but there are no "services cooperatives."

The service businesses being discussed in the new round of global trade talks include telecommunication, finance, distribution, marine and air transportation, construction, education, medical treatment, law services and the film industry. The future of the nation's economy depends on those businesses.

A number of government officials and analysts are proclaiming that Korea should make its best efforts to become a hub of the Northeast Asian logistics and financial businesses. In order to reach that goal, we should focus on those service industries.

Under a timetable that the WTO members agreed to at the Doha conference, Korea and other members are required to submit initial requests for market-opening commitments by June 30, and to submit initial offers to open their own markets by March 31, 2003. The negotiations on services trade will be finished by Jan. 1, 2005.

So the new administration has to submit initial offers immediately after it takes office and has to finish negotiations in 2004, the second year of its tenure. Then the administration has to actually start opening the services markets in 2005, the third year of its tenure, as the timetable for implementing the results of the negotiations projects.

Though all of the nation's goods and services markets are important, I emphasize educational, medical and legal services because they are not only businesses but a part of the nation's basic structure.

To be elected and to govern well, potential presidents have to concentrate on educational, medical and legal issues. Now that the new round of trade talks are under way, the next president - as candidate and as incumbent - will have to treat the negotiations in a different way than Kim Young-sam treated the rice market negotiations.


The writer is a senior economic writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Su-gil

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