Ratify FTA now
The government has introduced 25 bills to the National Assembly session this autumn regarding the ratification of the bilateral free trade agreement with the United States. Two months have passed, but the Assembly has yet to even start discussing the bills in earnest. It seems the entire political community is too preoccupied with the presidential election to vote on the bills during this Assembly session. Legislators representing agricultural regions in particular are more than happy to delay the bills until the next session as they prepare for the general election next year. In short, our fears have come to pass.
The Korea-U.S. FTA is a historic affair that is expected to help our country evolve into an advanced trading nation and provide us with a new foundation for economic growth. It is an issue on which a wide national consensus has been reached after countless controversies during the negotiation phase. According to the FTA Industry Alliance, some 55 percent of the country’s population supports ratification of the agreement, as compared to the 33 percent that opposes it. The National Assembly’s procrastination is an obvious shirking of duty. It shows that our politicians are more interested in their immediate partisan victories than the fate of the country. It goes without saying that the impact of the agreement will grow more precarious the longer the ratification is delayed.
The Korea-U.S. FTA is more important to us than to the United States because foreign trade takes up more than 70 percent of our economy. If we ratify the agreement first, it will put pressure on the U.S. Congress, now showing less support for the agreement, to follow suit.
Our ratification will make it difficult for the United States, the main proponent of free trade in the world, to refuse to validate the FTA. Ratification on our part will also have a positive impact on our ongoing FTA negotiations with the European Union.
If the National Assembly truly represents the interests of the people, it should ratify the Korea-U.S. FTA within this session. The presidential candidates should also urge the National Assembly to do so for the sake of the country.