Go slow on Korea-EU FTA

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Go slow on Korea-EU FTA

There is now a high possibility that Korea and the European Union will finalize the free trade agreement between them.

The two countries made a tentative deal in March and are now planning to hold minister-level meetings to iron out the remaining issues.

The Korean government is expecting that if all goes well, the trade pact will be ratified by Friday, at which time President Lee Myung-bak will be attending the expanded G-8 summit, along with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden, which chairs the EU starting this month. Lee will be in Europe for eight days, from today through Monday.

The marathon negotiation that has taken almost two years to complete is finally nearing the finish line.

Ratification of the Korea-EU FTA is significant on a number of levels. In the short run, the deal will greatly aid the economic recovery process of both Korea and the EU by promoting trade. And as the protectionist sentiment on trade has continued to spread during this global economic slowdown, increased trade between the EU, the world’s biggest economic bloc, and Korea, the world’s 13th-largest economy, will be most welcome.

If the two economic powers are able to cooperate and prosper through free trade, it may be possible to break through the current protectionist stance and enlarge the scale of trade. This will contribute a great deal to knocking down the challenges of economic growth and job creation.

Ratification of the Korea-EU trade agreement could also serve to promote ratification of the Korea-U.S. FTA, which is awaiting approval by the legislatures of both countries. It will be difficult for the U.S. to sit back and continue to delay its pending pact with Korea once the Korea-EU agreement is finalized.

The fact that Korea and the EU have managed to find agreement on automobile trade, which has been the biggest obstacle to passage of the Korus FTA, is also meaningful in that it could encourage the U.S. to sign the deal.

Also, if the trade agreement with the EU is finalized quickly, it will be easier for Korea to be a bit more relaxed about ratification of the Korus deal because trade between Korea and the EU will already have been established.

Completion of the Korea-EU FTA will also have a positive influence on pending trade agreements between Korea and China and Korea and Japan.

Finally, as the Korea-EU FTA nears completion, we would like to express the hope that those involved in fine-tuning the details will keep in mind that the such an important deal should not be concluded in haste - and certainly not for the sake of the president’s travel schedule.

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