[Viewpoint]Norwegian musicians share past and presentIt took many dramatic twists and turns before the free trade agreement was concluded with the United States. Although there were protests from people in fields vulnerable to outside competition, the Korean economy is expected to grow stronger because the trade pact will open huge markets in an advanced economy. We must approve the trade pact with the United States in the National Assembly at the earliest possible date, while complementing our economic and social problems. We should not let hard-earned opportunities for economic growth lie idle.
From now on, free trade agreement negotiations with other countries will also progress quickly. Negotiations with Canada, India, Mexico, Asean countries and others will gain speed, and negotiations with Japan, which had been practically shelved, will soon resume. More importantly, the negotiations with the European Union and China will resume sooner or later. The government says it plans to conclude a trade pact with the European Union first, then strike a deal with China to take advantage of Korea’s trade partnership with EU countries.
China is South Korea’s biggest trading partner in the world. If South Korea concludes a free trade agreements with the European Union and China following the one with the United States, Korea’s exports to countries in which it has a free trade agreement would increase to up to 60 percent of its total exports, from a mere 0.3 percent in 2004.
And then, the policy of signing free trade agreements simultaneously with a multiple number of trading partners, which had been promoted by the present government since 2003 when it adopted “the FTA promotion road map,” will be accomplished.
Why is South Korea, along with other major countries such as the United States, China and Japan, eager to sign free trade agreements? The main reason is because it is possible to maximize economic gains, by considering the other countries to be an extension of the domestic market.
It is also because the multilateral trade round led by the World Trade Organization is not making the expected progress.
Countries that belong to the World Trade Organization must rely on free trade agreements more and more, because trade negotiations at the Doha Development Agenda launched in 2001 were suspended in 2006 due to continued failures to reach an agreement.
The lessons Korea learned from the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement will be a great help in Korea’s negotiations on a trade agreement with China and the European Union. First of all, the free trade agreement with the United States dealt with a wider scope of issues than the Doha trade round under the WTO, and any trade issue brought up in future talks will be familiar to Korean negotiators.
In negotiations with China, the opening of agricultural markets is a burden to Korea.
Korean’s experience with free trade agreement negotiations with the United States, which is far superior competitively in the agricultural sector, will help Korea greatly.
The negotiations with the United States will also be a great help to Korea in its effort to conclude a free trade agreement with the European Union, which has an advanced economic and social system similar to the United States.
South Korea’s securing of export markets in major countries of the world is positive progress. But Korea should not be negligent in the multilateral trade round of the World Trade Organization, because that system, which is based on the principle of most favored nation treatment, is the most desirable arrangement for South Korea, which relies on trade for nearly 70 percent of its gross domestic product.
In terms of the effort and expense required, the multilateral market opening under the World Trade Organization round is much more effective than the bilateral market openings, such as the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. Although it is necessary to conclude free trade agreements with China, the European Union and others in practice, therefore, it is also important to vitalize the WTO multilateral trade round.
Many developing countries, which hardly have the chance to conduct colorful bilateral negotiations, occupy most of the WTO.
For Korea, which is the 11th-largest trading country in the world, cooperation with such major trading partners as the European Union and China may be important, but it is also important to promote trade cooperation with many estranged developing countries. Korea should be careful not to obstruct the development of the multilateral trade round of the World Trade Organization when it concludes its free trade agreements with China and the European Union.
Korea should promote its free trade agreements with other countries while giving heed to the development of the multilateral round under the World Trade Organization. From now on, Korea should promote bilateral market openings through free trade agreements while, at the same time, pushing multilateral market openings under the WTO.
*The writer is a professor of law at Korea University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park No-hyoung