No renegotiationsThe agreement last week over new trade guidelines between the U.S. government and the Democratic Party, which controls Congress, created a problem for the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. The U.S. Congress reportedly is demanding that the trade agreement between Korea and the United States be negotiated again to match the new guidelines. Alexander Vershbow, U.S. ambassador to Korea, said in the Korea-Washington Forum held on Tuesday that the United States and Korea need to cooperate on stronger standards for labor and the environment in the next several weeks. The logic goes that renegotiations are inevitable.
However, that demand will degrade the achievements and compromises made to make the Korea-U.S. free trade pact happen, and will damage trust on agreements between the countries. First of all, the U.S. request to discuss the deal again is not proper procedure. The new trade policy is a U.S. domestic standard set after Seoul and Washington signed their free trade accord. It is arrogant and rude to think the United States can use the excuse of the new policy to renege on an agreement made with another country.
The U.S. government and the Democratic Party did not reach their agreement on the new guidelines before the Korea-U.S. free trade pact was signed, and that is a problem within the United States. If we make an example that agreements between countries can be changed afterward, it will be impossible even to start negotiating an agreement.
The new U.S. trade guidelines are designed to force countries to abide by the international standards for labor and the environment. However, we already meet these standards. There is no need to change the content of the free trade agreement between Seoul and Washington just because of the U.S. trade policy. Bills for free bilateral trade agreements with Peru, Panama and Colombia are pending before the U.S. Congress, and there is no need to make Korea and the other three countries renegotiate.
If Washington officially requests discussing the free trade agreement again, it will place the Korean government in a difficult situation as it prepares for parliamentary approval of the deal.
If there are possibilities for a rediscussion, it is unclear whether the pact will be approved by the U.S. Congress.
The U.S. government must not ask for any renegotiations for the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.
Such a demand will shake the foundation of the FTA.