No need to delay FTAThe government and the Grand National Party are seeking legislative approval of the free trade agreement with the United States. The government and the ruling party plan to submit a bill to that effect on Nov. 10 to the National Assembly’s committee of foreign affairs and trade. They hope for approval at the Assembly’s plenary session within the year. But the opposition Democratic Party is fighting the bill and some GNP opinions also differ.
We have repeatedly urged that the bill be approved as soon as possible. There is no need to belabor the importance of the free trade agreement as our economy is heavily dependent on exports. The present emergency makes this even more true. When the global economic crisis worsens, people in many countries will encourage protectionism. It will then become difficult to sign more bilateral trade agreements.
Thus, Korea must approve the free trade pact it has already signed. If Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, is elected, people will raise their voices to protect American workers.
During rallies, the Democratic candidate has focused on unfair trade, saying that Korea sells thousands upon thousands of vehicles to the U.S. annually while the U.S. sells a mere 5,000 units to Korea. If Obama is elected, the U.S. might ask for renegotiation in the vehicle sector. Some maintain that if Korea has approved the deal by then, it will serve to preclude such a request. That is a convincing argument.
The Democratic Party of Korea opposes the deal for two reasons. First, it argues that measures to protect industries that will be hurt by the free trade pact must be prepared.
Second, it also argues that the U.S. administration hasn’t sent the bill to Congress yet and the U.S. government and Congress won’t give the deal more weight because Korea handles it first.
In short, National Assembly approval is needed but now is not the right time, according to the opposition party.
But from a comprehensive point of view, there won’t be any harm done even if Korea’s National Assembly approves it first. Unlike the U.S., Korea must adjust 20 free-trade related laws, and therefore it takes longer to finally approve the trade deal. Measures to protect vulnerable industries can be drawn up along the way. Korea should show its support for the trade agreement and work according to its own schedule. It will be good to approve the bill and freshen our resolve to overcome the current economic crisis.