Outrageous FTA opposition

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Outrageous FTA opposition

Opposition parties are poised to use the free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States to stir up local Tea Party-like protests. It is sad to watch opposition legislators act upon political interests, instead of national ones. Some 32 opposition legislators called for renegotiation of the free trade pact between South Korea and the U.S. that was concluded in 2007, threatening to join their American counterparts with similar demands. Opposition from minority progressive parties is understandable, but for executive members of the main opposition Democratic Party to join the chorus is outrageous.

In a joint statement, they demanded scrapping disadvantageous provisions on the protection mechanism for American investors and the opening of virtually all major service sectors. The executive members, however, failed to explain how they could join U.S. legislators that seek greater access to the Korean automobile, beef, and textile markets through renegotiations. We cannot understand to what extent and purpose they plan to forge such an alliance. Any renegotiations would only work favorably toward the U.S. Even former DP head, Chung Se-kyun, doubted that renegotiations would produce a better outcome for South Korea.

New DP Chairman, Sohn Hak-kyu, in meeting with Rep. Lee Jae-oh, minister without portfolio, warned against closed-door negotiations, noting that some American lawmakers are demanding greater access to the auto, beef, and textile markets through new talks. But other executive members went a separate way with the bizarre idea of renegotiation. They may be out to derail the agreement altogether by joining forces with hard-line Americans. Their demand lacks sincerity and study, citing “abusive” provisions as an excuse to overturn the pact. A logical argument would have presented why a bilateral FTA would be harmful to Korea.

Everyone knows the benefits of the FTA. Significantly lower duties would benefit the Korean economy, which is chiefly driven by trade.

Ironically, the Korea-U.S. FTA had been an accomplishment of the Roh Moo-hyun administration with the DP as the ruling party. The protestors - Chung Dong-young and Cheon Jung-bae - had served as ministers in the administration. It is laughable that they now oppose the pact.

We should muster our diplomatic efforts to keep the agreed terms more or less intact as American politicians are tempted to exploit the pact ahead of mid-term elections. Local politicians must endeavor to accelerate endorsement procedures. A country surrounded by industrial powerhouses cannot afford to victimize diplomatic, security, and economic matters for self-serving political purposes.

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