Ratify the Korus FTA in August

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Ratify the Korus FTA in August

After the ruling Grand National Party vowed to ratify the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement in August, the opposition Democratic Party strongly demanded a renegotiation of the pact, citing 10 clauses that it argues need revision. The DP pushed for a deferment of tariffs on U.S. beef and a recognition of goods produced at the inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong, North Korea, as South Korean products.

The situation in the U.S. is not amicable either, as politicians are prioritizing the financial crisis over ratification of the pact. If the current situation continues on both sides, the long-awaited ratification will likely drift along with no noticeable results.

The DP should understand how unrealistic its demands are. Nine of the 10 clauses the party wants to renegotiate are the ones it had agreed to with the U.S. when it was the ruling party under the Roh Moo-hyun administration. The DP’s transformation, which is primarily due to hard-line opposition, translates into a pure political and ideological offensive. If the DP insists on making unreasonable demands in consideration of a potential alliance with the Democratic Labor Party or other liberal civic groups for next year’s general and presidential elections, it can never be free from criticism that it is using the FTA for its own political advantage.

It would be best for both parties to ratify the pact, as junior members of the GNP want. Yet it would still be half of a success if the FTA were ratified by the GNP alone - with the opposition parties absent from the voting as they were in the May ratification of the Korea-EU FTA.

The Korus FTA is not something to be determined by partisan interests. That’s an unavoidable consequence for a small open economy like Korea. It is also why the pact was initiated by President Roh, an anti-U.S. politician, and supported by Sohn Hak-kyu, the current DP chairman and the governor of Gyeonggi at the time, who gladly chimed in. If this continues, the documents both governments signed in June 2007 may end up as scrap paper.

The best option is to ratify the pact in August. If the U.S. delays ratification until September, yet presents a clear roadmap for its passage, we won’t have to postpone the ratification. The determination of President Lee Myung-bak and President Barack Obama is also crucial for a smooth ratification of the pact. The junior lawmakers of the GNP must also approach the issue as boldly as possible because our national interest is at stake. Seventy-five percent of the public supports the pact. That says it all.
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