Keep focused on agreementNegotiations over a free trade agreement with the United States are entering the last phase. Negotiators from the two countries are discussing major issues such as trade remedies, vehicles and medical supplies in the seventh round of negotiations in Washington. Both countries plan to reach an agreement in the eighth round of talks scheduled next month, based on the results from this round of talks. A bilateral trade agreement does not favor one country or the other, but benefits both. Therefore, the two countries involved give and take in the process of negotiation. We would like to believe that our team has tried hard to give less and take more. But there is a limitation to their technical judgments.
One example is beef imports. The United States will likely lose its mark as a country with a high risk of mad cow disease in the general meeting of the World Organization of Animal Health, or Office International des Epizooties in French.
We then lose any reason to resist beef imports from the United States. If we keep opposing buying U.S. beef, we will end up in a trade dispute, say, with a complaint against us through the World Trade Organization.
The government has been dragged along by the beef issue, which is not even on the agenda for a free trade accord with Washington. It produced nothing and ended up giving advantages to the United States.
In about one month, many other issues as sensitive as beef imports should be wholly settled. If we stick to a single given issue, we might lose everything. That’s why political determination and resolution are required more than ever.
We demand that the president once again clearly show his willpower to sign a free trade accord with Washington and the vice prime minister for economy clarifies issues in negotiations.
Imports of beef should be agreed upon in a broader context and a variety of conspiracy theories circulating among the people must be calmed down.
The Japanese reportedly have an increasing sense of crisis that once a bilateral trade accord is signed between Seoul and Washington, Japan will be left behind. In terms of a free trade agreement, we have taken the lead in the region. With a Korea-U.S. trade agreement, we will chase Japan and widen the gap with China.
We hope that the incumbent government will be remembered by our descendants as the one that built a cornerstone to becoming one of the world’s top five trade powers.