[LETTERS to the editor]FTA: Autos are Obama’s beef

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[LETTERS to the editor]FTA: Autos are Obama’s beef

The furious debate in the National Assembly regarding the ratification of the Korea?U.S. FTA continues despite the ruling party’s assurance that it will not use its majority in the legislature to unilaterally push for ratification. However, while the Grand National Party remains convinced that early ratification will exert pressure for the United States to do the same, persuading the opposition will not be an easy task. For any successful consensus to emerge, the GNP must present a comprehensive and consistent policy for promoting the FTA to a White House and Congress filled with Democrats who are less than enthusiastic about it. This means staying one step ahead and preparing for contingencies, not repeating the same mantra despite the drastically changed circumstances.

It is surprising that the GNP has yet to present an FTA plan of action tailored for an Obama administration. After all, Barack Obama’s election success hardly comes as a shock, and his concerns for the U.S. auto industry are far from secret. Perhaps the GNP is still laboring under the hope that the FTA will be ratified in the lame-duck session or that Obama, like countless presidents before him, will shed his election pledges once he settles into the White House. If this is the case, the GNP is in for a rude awakening. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for a lame-duck session to discuss an auto industry bailout highlights the industry’s significance as a casus belli for American protectionist sentiment.

While it is highly unlikely that Obama will continue the Bush tradition of flouting international law, the GNP cannot rule out the possibility of the U.S. requesting additional FTA negotiations regarding the automobile sector. Korea may have to acquiesce to this request. After all, reciprocity is a Westphalian custom, and autos may turn out to be Obama’s beef.

One thing is clear: The GNP will have to adapt to the changing political and economic climate in order to promote the FTA. They must prepare for all contingencies in order to pre-empt renegotiations, which could prove to be fatal to the Korea-U.S. FTA. Meanwhile, both the government and the ruling party need to remind the Democrats in Washington, not that renegotiation is off the table, but why they are simply out of the question - reciprocity. Even at the height of the candlelight vigils, renegotiation was the one thing President Lee refused to consider. And he paid a hefty political price for it. Obama may face similar opposition to the deal as a whole, particularly as the U.S. economy reels from the ongoing financial meltdown. In order to persuade both the opposition in the National Assembly and the Democrats on Capitol Hill, the ruling party must present clear guidelines and put to rest all doubts from outside and all inconsistencies from within.

Yang So-mang, student, Yonsei University

*e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219
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