[EDITORIALS]Value pact over quotaWork on talks for a free trade pact between Korea and the United States has been accelerating since President Roh Moo-hyun’s New Year’s address. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently announced it would hold a public hearing early next month to gather opinions on such a pact. Accordingly, the government is likely to soon declare the start of negotiations with Washington.
The JoongAng Ilbo has repeatedly emphasized the need for a Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, in the view that it will benefit Korea not only economically but also in the diplomatic and security areas. According to a survey by the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, a Korea-U.S. free trade pact would expand Korea’s annual gross domestic product by 1.99 percent in the long term. It will also accelerate development of Korea’s service industries and advancement of the overall economy by giving local companies stable access to the world’s largest market.
In addition, a Korea-U.S. free trade agreement would upgrade the two countries’ relations from a mere military alliance to a comprehensive alliance covering political, economic and military issues. In particular, Korea could become the first Asian country in a free trade pact with the United States, getting ahead of Japan. Korea would be able to make good use of being a major Asian economic partner of America, as well as a military ally, in order to expand our interests.
The biggest remaining obstacle to an agreement is Korea’s screen quota system, which requires local movie theaters to show domestic films for at least 146 days a year. The United States is requesting the number of days allotted to local films be reduced drastically or for the system to be abolished, while Korea proposes to reduce the number of days to 70 or 80. Currently, Korean films’ local market share is 59 percent, which is unprecedented in other parts of the world. This is because the people in the local film industry are making good movies. The “Korean Wave” sweeping over Asian countries indicates the competitiveness of our films. Of course, if the screen quota was reduced, conditions for the domestic film industry could get difficult. But, considering the interests of the whole country, people in the film industry should not persist in their own interests. They should make use of the market opening to improve their competitiveness and the government should help them. The country should not lose the chance of a Korea-U.S. free trade pact because of the screen quota system.