Lawmakers from U.S. in Seoul for talks on FTA

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Lawmakers from U.S. in Seoul for talks on FTA

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, left, President Lee Myung-bak, center, and Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), right, walk in the Blue House, along with other senior officials, for a discussion on passage of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. A bipartisan congressional delegation, led by Locke, is visiting Korea this week. [YONHAP]


President Lee Myung-bak yesterday made a push to a visiting bipartisan congressional delegation, led by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, to ratify the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, stressing that the pact would upgrade the two countries’ alliance to a new level.

The delegation consists of four members from the U.S. House of Representatives: Charles Rangel (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and David Reichert (R-WA). Wendy Cutler, the assistant U.S. trade representative, also participated during the five-day fact-finding mission which began Tuesday.

According to the Blue House, the bilateral relations, particularly efforts to build support for the passage of the FTA by the two countries’ legislatures, were discussed during the meeting. Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon, National Security Adviser Chun Young-woo and Senior Secretary for Economic Affairs Kim Dae-ki and Kim Tae-hyo, Lee’s secretary for national strategy, accompanied the president.

“Today, the Korea-U.S. alliance is stronger than ever and the bilateral economic and trade relations are developing steadily,” Lee was quoted as saying. “We need continuous attention and cooperation to improve the alliance to the next level in terms of both quality and quantity.”

Lee also highlighted the enormous economic and strategic benefits that the FTA will bring to both countries, urging the U.S. Congress to ratify it as soon as possible so that the two countries’ people and companies will enjoy them, the Blue House said.

The Blue House said Locke spoke positively about the prospect, explaining that bipartisan support for the pact has been built in the U.S. Congress through additional negotiations that took place in December. He also promised the best efforts for an early passage, hoping for a smooth ratification process in Korea as well, the Blue House said.

The U.S. Commerce Department said last week that the FTA’s passage is “an important part of President Barack Obama’s National Export Initiative and his vision for the United States to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build its global competition and win the future.”

The department has also said the congressional members will be shown how the FTA will support job creation in the United States and spur economic growth in both countries. “The trip will help the members communicate the importance of Korus to their congressional colleagues and the American public,” it said. Korus is short for the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

After signing the FTA in 2007, Seoul and Washington concluded additional negotiations in December to meet U.S. concerns over auto trade, the biggest hurdle to approval. Calling the pact “the United States most commercially significant trade agreement in more than 16 years,” the U.S. government has stepped up its pressure on Congress to ratify the deal. The Obama administration earlier vowed to clear the free trade deal with Korea through Congress before July 1.


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

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
李대통령 "美, FTA 의회 비준 힘써달라"
로크 美상무장관 '의회에 한미FTA 초당적 지지 형성'
이명박 대통령은 27일 게리 로크 미국 상무장관과 하원의원들을 만나 "한미 자유무역협정(FTA)이 가져올 막대한 경제적ㆍ전략적 이익을 양국 국민과 기업이 속히 누릴 수 있도록 미 의회 내 조속한 비준을 위해 힘써달라"고 당부했다.

이 대통령은 이날 오후 청와대를 예방한 로크 장관과 미 하원의 짐 맥더모트, 조지프 크롤리, 찰스 랭글(이상 민주), 데이브 라이커트(공화) 의원을 접견한 자리에서 한미 FTA가 마무리 단계까지 진전됐음을 언급하면서 이같이 밝혔다고 배석자들이 전했다.

이에 대해 로크 장관은 "지난해 12월 추가 협상 등을 통해 미 의회에 한미 FTA에 대한 초당적 지지가 형성돼 미 의회의 조기 비준을 기대하고 있다"면서 "이를 위해 최선의 노력을 다하겠다"고 말했다.

로크 장관은 그러면서 "한국 측의 비준 절차도 원활히 진행되길 희망한다"고 덧붙였다.

이밖에 이 대통령과 로크 상무장관은 한미 동맹의 발전을 위한 협력을 강화해야 한다는 데 동의하는 한편 북한 핵 문제 등에 대해서도 의견을 교환했다.

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