Contentious vote on Korea-EU FTA set for today

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Contentious vote on Korea-EU FTA set for today

A compromise between the ruling and main opposition parties to schedule a vote today to ratify the European Union free trade agreement faced fierce resistance from minority liberal and conservative politicians yesterday, who said the agreement didn’t have enough protection for the domestic retail service industry.

The floor leaders of the ruling Grand National Party and the major opposition Democratic Party agreed Monday to hold the ratification vote today. Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Joong-kyung and Agriculture Minister Yoo Jeong-bok took part in those negotiations.

The National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee finally approved the long-stalled agreement last week, but the Democrats threw a wrench into the process by threatening to boycott the main voting session if there weren’t better measures to protect livestock farmers and small businesses.

After the government and ruling and opposition parties reached an agreement on larger compensation measures for the agricultural and livestock industries on Monday, the two main political parties scheduled a ratification vote today.

The FTA, which will lift most tariffs and trade barriers between Korea and the EU within the next five years, was quickly protested by opposition lawmakers from smaller parties and some senior members of the DP.

DP Representatives Chung Dong-young and Chun Jung-bae yesterday held a press conference at the National Assembly to challenge their party’s decision to ratify the deal.

“Before the April 27 by-elections, four opposition parties had agreed to thoroughly scrutinize the Korea-EU ratification motion,” said Chung. “We cannot endorse the deal after compromising on measures for the agricultural and livestock industries alone.”

Some lawmakers argue that the FTA will effectively incapacitate a recently enacted law to protect small retailers from “super-supermarkets” operated by conglomerates. They said the government and the leadership of the GNP and DP are deceiving the public by passing a law restricting the super-supermarkets, which will become useless after the EU FTA takes effect.

The National Assembly’s Knowledge Economy Committee yesterday approved more stringent regulations on the super-supermarkets, banning them from within 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) of a traditional market, a change from the current 500 meters. The revision also lengthens the prohibition of super-supermarkets to five years from the current three years.

Democratic Labor Party Chairwoman Lee Jung-hee questioned the effectiveness of the measure.

“Will the Korea-EU FTA really respect that 1-kilometer protective zone for traditional markets?” Lee asked.

“The Korea-EU FTA completely opens up Korea’s retail service industry to the EU,” said another liberal leader, New Progressive Party Chairman Cho Seung-soo. “The supermarket regulation will clearly conflict with the FTA.”

The conservative opposition Liberty Forward Party yesterday said its lawmakers will boycott today’s vote.

“The entire nation is highly interested in the issue, but the GNP and the DP had a secret deal at night [on Monday] as if it were a stealth military mission,” the LFP said in a statement. “What are they afraid of?”

The LFP said the compensation measures agreed on Monday among the GNP, DP and the government are not sufficient and demanded more discussion on the issues.

As criticism grew, the DP leadership went on the defensive. “We accomplished enough compensation measures for farmers,” said DP floor leader Park Jie-won yesterday. “I am not 100 percent satisfied with the negotiation, but it was a good negotiation.”

Under Monday’s agreement, the government will compensate up to 90 percent of farmers’ losses if agricultural products’ prices fall below 85 percent of the prices before the FTA. The measure will be approved by the Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee today before the main vote.

“The government also promised to negotiate with the European Union, after the FTA is ratified, to revise some terms in order to better protect small business owners,” Park said.


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


한글 관련 기사 [연합]

국회, 오늘 한ㆍEU FTA 비준안 처리

국회는 4일 오후 본회의를 열고 한-EU 자유무역협정(FTA) 비준안을 처리한다.

한나라당과 민주당이 지난 2일 주무부처 장관들이 참석한 여야정 회담에서 FTA 비준안과 함께 FTA 농어업인 지원 특별법 개정안과 유통산업발전법 개정안을 이날 일괄처리하기로 합의한데 따른 것이다.

본회의에 앞서 농림수산식품위원회는 전체회의를 열고 한-EU FTA 발효로 농축산물 가격이 기준가 대비 85% 이하로 떨어지면 차액의 90%를 직불금 형태로 보전하는 내용의 FTA 농어업인 지원 특별법 개정안을 의결한다.

국회 지식경제위원회는 전날 열린 전체회의에서 재래시장의 피해를 줄이기 위해 SSM(기업형 슈퍼마켓) 입점 제한 범위를 기존의 `500m 이내`에서 `1㎞ 이내`로 넓히고, 법안의 일몰 시한도 3년에서 5년으로 늘리는 내용의 유통산업발전법 개정안을 처리했다.

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