[EDITORIALS]A refund for free trade?The government and ruling party’s attitude towards the free trade agreement with the United States is becoming increasingly less reliable.
It wasn’t long ago that the government stated firmly that it would wrap up the agreement during the current administration, but recent events are suggesting that the government might have changed its mind.
During an interview with the press on June 19, the chairman of the ruling Uri Party, Kim Geun-tae, mentioned that the deal could cause “severe problems” and that Korea must not be restrained by the schedule for talks that the United States decided on.
Even President Roh Moo-hyun, who used to insist that the deal must go through regardless of opposition from domestic interest groups, changed his position and said at an economic meeting on Thursday that there is no need to rush the talks if the positions of the two nations are not ideal in terms of balance and content.
Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Han Duck-soo, a strong supporter of free trade, also stepped back; while attending a forum at the National Assembly on Friday, he said that the free trade deal can’t solve all of Korea’s economic problems.
According to the government officials, the pact is not essential and nothing will go wrong if we fail to reach an agreement.
Economy-related offices such as the Ministry of Planning and Budget and the Financial Supervisory Service have recently sent e-mail briefings from the Blue House to influential persons ― the messages were titled, “The FTA is not our economy’s remedy.” It makes us wonder whether the government is preparing for a delay or breakdown in the negotiations.
What has brought this change in attitude? The negotiation schedule was not set by the United States alone and the Korean government decided to go with the deadline set forth by the U.S. Trade Promotion Authority because it favored its negotiation strategy.
Back then, the Korean delegation concluded that it would not work to our favor if the negotiating authority was handed over to the National Assembly, due to the influence of those in favor of trade protections.
Nothing has changed in the overall situation, so we are curious as to what brought about the sudden change in attitude.
If the government truly intends to sign a free trade deal with the United States, it must refrain from making useless comments. If it has had a change of heart, it should explain why in detail to the Korean people.