Move quickly to ratify the FTA

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Move quickly to ratify the FTA

President Barack Obama submitted to the U.S. Congress yesterday a bill seeking approval of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement - four years after both governments signed it. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has said that there will be no more obstacles to the ratification of the trade deal in the House.

As the bill represents the outcome of close consultations between the White House and the House leadership, the possibility that it will be ratified before President Lee Myung-bak’s state visit to Washington on Oct. 13 is even stronger than before. Now, our National Assembly must wrap up the ratification process as soon as possible.

Free trade agreements are our economy’s last resort against the deepening uncertainty of the global economy. Only when our exports increase will we achieve a surplus in the current account, which would help stave off unfounded distrust in our economy. The ratification of the pact is the most reliable means to boost foreign countries’ trust in our economy, particularly with U.S. dollars flying out of our financial market.

The U.S. and European economies will most likely remain in the doldrums for a considerable period of time, which could inevitably fuel a protectionist movement in the Western Hemisphere. The ratification of the trade pact is essential to heading off such protectionist moves in America and Europe.

But the opposition camp is still fervently opposed to the ratification of the pact because they believe the latest renegotiation of the FTA disadvantaged Korea. But even Hyundai Motor Company and its affiliate Kia Motors, which have the highest stakes in the deal, support the ratification. The opposition parties’ pressure on the Lee administration to again renegotiate the deal appears to be very unrealistic, as the attempt is nothing less than a political fight to prolong the long-awaited ratification of the deal.

The government and the ruling Grand National Party have so far been committed to ratifying the FTA in accordance with the process in the U.S. Congress. The countdown to ratification has started in the United States, so the government and the GNP must quickly pass the ratification bill - which is now with the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee - as promised and refer the bill to the plenary session of the Assembly before the current regular session is over. Enough arguments have already been made by both camps. Now it’s time to bring it to a tidy conclusion.

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