[EDITORIALS]Free trade deal must be ratifiedWith the opening of its car market in the new year, Mexico declared that it would raise tariffs from 20 percent to 50 percent for any country that has not signed a free trade agreement with it, including Korea. With a tariff rate of 50 percent, it will be virtually impossible to compete with countries exempt from tariffs in Mexico, such as the EU and the United States.
Unless something is done fast, we would lose the fourth-biggest market in the Americas, with a population of 100 million. The consequences of our country’s reluctance to sign free trade agreements are now starting in earnest. The Korean economy has been paying a heavy price for the delays in ratification. In Mexico’s case, a country with no free trade agreements is at a disadvantage in exporting tires and bidding for state-managed businesses. In Chile, the market share of Korean-made cars has fallen from 20.2 percent to 13 percent. Exports of textiles and telecommunication devices have also fallen more than 30 percent.
Korean cars are at a disadvantage also in India, and it is said that those in Singapore, with whom negotiations for a free trade agreement are ongoing, simply can’t understand South Korea’s reluctance to a trade agreement when its economy so heavily depends on trade.
The loss of the agricultural sector following a free trade agreement with Chile is estimated to be 600 billion won ($501 million) at most for the first 10 years. The government is planning to assist the farmers with 1 trillion won. To still refuse to ratify the agreement, causing economic losses tens and hundreds times over and isolating ourselves from the rest of the world, is nothing more than pure selfishness and blindness to the future prosperity of Korea.
It is doubtful whether the legislators who blocked the ratification of the agreement a few days ago understand the seriousness of the consequences. If they are indeed acting out of ignorance, they have no right to be legislators.
The National Assembly intends to pursue the ratification once more next month, but the prospects are still doubtful. The National Assembly must wake up to reality. The Korean economy shouldn’t be made to suffer any longer because a few ignorant legislators want to keep their golden badges.