Lee lauds FTA, defends concessions

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Lee lauds FTA, defends concessions

Rebutting criticism that the renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement compromised the nation’s automotive industry, President Lee Myung-bak defended the concessions yesterday as a means to a bigger economic gain.

In his biweekly radio address, Lee stressed the importance of the trade deal with the United States, calling it another opportunity for Korea to prosper and fulfill its national destiny.

“Signing an FTA means forming an economic alliance as important as any other alliance,” Lee said. “By concluding the FTA, Korea and the United States beefed up their security alliance.”

Lee said Korea has so far signed free trade deals with 45 countries, which are vital for a country for which 82 percent of its gross domestic product comes from trade.

“With the ratification of the Korea-U.S. FTA, Korea will be the only country in the world that has signed trade deals with the three major economic zones: the United States, the European Union, and Asean and India,” Lee said. “Although our country may be small, its economic footprint will be the largest in the world and it will become the center of global free trade.”

Lee also rejected criticism that Seoul’s concessions to the U.S. were excessive and one-sided. “Some say that we gave away too much in the auto sector,” Lee said. “But this year alone, we exported 950,000 cars to the United States while importing only 12,000 from there. Because our auto industry’s competitiveness is strong, we conceded what we can in order to achieve a bigger economic gain.”

Lee said the renegotiated deal will allow the export of car components to rise rapidly, and that will be good for small and mid-sized Korean companies.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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