Standoff in Assembly over passage of EU FTA

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Standoff in Assembly over passage of EU FTA

The prospect of ratifying the free trade agreement between Korea and the European Union before the end of April legislative session appeared to have dimmed as the Democratic Party made clear its opposition.

The Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee finally approved the long-stalled agreement on Thursday, but the Democrats threw a wrench into the process by threatening to boycott the main legislative session, scheduled for yesterday, if a vote was held on the bill.

The clock is ticking. The European Parliament approved the deal on Feb. 17 and the ruling Grand National Party has been trying to ratify the accord before the end of the April session to allow the pact to take effect on July 1 as agreed with the EU.

But the GNP is reluctant to use its majority to pass the legislation over the opposition’s objections because it would be accused of “railroading” the bill, which has become shorthand in Korea for acting arrogantly, especially after its rout in this week’s by-elections. Young, reformist GNP lawmakers have also made clear that they won’t cooperate with any forcible passage.

The Democrats urged the government yesterday to come up with better measures to make up for losses that may be suffered by livestock farmers and small businesses if it wants ratification.

“If the ruling party and the government tried to railroad the ratification motion by using the force of its majority, we will never accept such a move,” DP Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu said yesterday. “Even if we ratify it in June, the accord can still take effect on July 1.”

“If President Lee Myung-bak truly wishes to succeed with the public during the rest of his term, he must never corner the opposition party and railroad a motion,” he said.

Floor leaders of the GNP and DP and their deputies held meetings to discuss how to handle the ratification motion, but no deal was struck as of yesterday afternoon. “The GNP agreed that the motion won’t be discussed at the main session today,” Park Jie-won, DP floor leader, said yesterday.

GNP floor leader Kim Moo-sung, however, spoke of the legislative timetable slightly differently. “I recommend that the National Assembly should vote on the motion today, if the relevant ministries and the two parties manage to reach a compromise,” Kim said. “If not, then we will open an extra session in May no matter what happens.”

While the tug-of-war between the parties continued over the FTA, a series of less sensitive bills went before the National Assembly yesterday, including a ban on computer users under the age of 16 from accessing online game sites from midnight until 6 a.m. starting in November.


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

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
한ㆍEU FTA 비준안 4월 처리 무산될 듯
한ㆍ유럽연합(EU) 자유무역협정(FTA) 비준동의안이 4월 국회에서 처리되기 어려울 것으로 전망된다.

민주당은 29일 의원총회를 열고 정부가 축산농가 피해보전 방안과 소상공인 보호대책을 충실하게 마련하지 않는 이상 4월 국회에서 비준동의안을 처리하지 않겠다는 입장을 재확인했다.

민주당은 특히 한나라당이 이날 오후 본회의에서 비준동의안을 상정하려고 해도 의사일정에 합의해주지 않을 방침이다.

한나라당도 비준동의안을 단독 처리하지는 않겠다는 입장이어서 여야는 법사위로부터 넘어온 법안과 민생법안들을 본회의에서 우선 처리하고 비준동의안은 다루지 못할 가능성이 높아 보인다.


한나라당과 민주당은 이날 오전 비준동의안 처리방향을 놓고 원내대표 및 수석부대표 접촉을 잇따라 가졌으나 논의 결과에 대한 양당의 해석이 엇갈려 완전한 합의에 이르지 못했다.

민주당 박지원 원내대표는 "회동에서 한나라당은 정부가 대책을 보완한 뒤 5월에 임시국회를 열어서라도 (비준동의안을) 처리하자고 제안했다"며 "오늘 본회의에는 상정하지 않겠다고 했다"고 소개했다.

반면 한나라당 김무성 원내대표는 "관계부처와 관련 상임위원장 및 양당 간사, 원내대표 등이 회의를 해서 합의를 도출하면 오늘 중에라도 비준동의안을 처리하자고 제안했다"며 "합의가 안되면 무조건 5월에 임시국회를 열 것"이라고 말했다.

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