FTA floundering

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FTA floundering

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the American Secretary of State-designate, said of the Korea-U.S. FTA at her confirmation hearing: “If the South Koreans are willing to re-engage negotiations on these vital provisions [automobile and non-tariff barrier rules] of the agreement, we will work with them to get to resolution.”

Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said that additional measures to revise the FTA would be on the agenda for 2009.

The Korea-U.S. FTA has entered a new phase. In fact, we understand that the incoming Obama administration is poised to call for a renegotiation of the agreement.

The Korean government maintains its official stance of having no plans to renegotiate the FTA. It is also still sticking to its line that the agreement was the result of negotiations that succeeded in maintaining the proper balance between the national interests of the two nations.

For example, American automobiles are a prime thorny issue. But the problem lies with the U.S. auto industry itself, hampered by low fuel efficiency and uncompetitive prices and quality. America’s Big Three automakers are staggering under the huge burden of paying medical benefits for retired union workers.

So why is America trying to shift the blame to Korea? America should realize why U.S.-made cars have fallen far behind their German and Japanese counterparts, even though they used to have a nearly 50 percent market share in Korea’s imported car market.

We had real concerns about such calls for renegotiation of the agreement. We continued to insist that the National Assembly should complete ratification of the agreement early to avoid exactly this miserable situation. But the National Assembly neglected its duty and let the chance slip by.

Now we should calmly approach the agreement again. The government and the ruling party should explore the best measure to protect national interests. Legislative ratification in both nations should be considered to avoid repeating the same mistake. It is unjustifiable that U.S. Democrats are using the FTA for political gain.

The government, and the ruling and opposition parties, should discuss whether we should renegotiate the agreement with the U.S. The Korea-U.S. FTA, which has been promoted as part of our efforts to strengthen the Korea-U.S. alliance, may hamper the very cause that the agreement was hoped to contribute to.

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