GNP, Blue House differ on strategies for FTA vote

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GNP, Blue House differ on strategies for FTA vote

The Lee Myung-bak administration and the ruling Grand National Party are at loggerheads over how to get ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement through the National Assembly.

They particularly want to avoid another violent melee like the one that accompanied the passing of the 2011 national budget last week.

The Blue House wants to take a speedy, two-track route in which the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee is presented with the changes made to the agreement earlier this month and then vote on them. The committee already approved the original version of the FTA agreement in 2008. Then the full assembly would be asked to vote on both the original agreement and the changes.

But yesterday, Representative Nam Kyung-pil, chairman of the 28-member foreign affairs and trade committee, said the assembly should go back to the drawing board, discard the passage of the original FTA agreement and deliberate on the pact with all its alterations.

“Since the latest renegotiation between Seoul and Washington brought about a significant change to the agreement, including the terms for the auto industry, the existing approval by the committee should be discarded and the committee should deliberate on the FTA from scratch,” Nam said.

Analysts said that Nam considers the Blue House’s plan a kind of trick that will be resented by the opposition and could lead to more opposition to the trade agreement. Nam said it is critical for the legislature to thoroughly deliberate on the agreement and vote on the renegotiated deal fairly.

They also say opposition lawmakers, who have criticized Korea’s concessions to the U.S., might find it easier to reject a motion on the changes alone, but would have more hesitation to vote down the landmark pact in its entirety, considering the economic benefits it promises.

The original FTA signed in 2007 was revised this month to win U.S. congressional support. A trade-off between cars and pork broke the impasse in negotiations. Both of the countries’ legislatures still need to ratify it, however. Nam also said there is no rush for Korea’s ratification. “We can do it in step with how things go in the U.S. Congress,” Nam said.

By Ser Myo-ja, Ko Jung-ae []
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