Why is DP against FTA it initiated?Following the Congressional passage of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement last week, the Lee Myung-bak administration and the ruling Grand National Party are anxious to ratify it in the National Assembly.
However, the opposition Democratic Party is adamant that it wants the deal renegotiated and revised. The irony, however, is that the long-pending FTA was a carry-over from the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration.
When initiated by then-President Roh in 2006, the free trade pact that will largely remove tariff barriers between Korea and the United States was not a popular move among liberals. Roh confessed that it was one of the most difficult political decisions he had to make, but he still pushed it forward to “make Korea an advanced country with an aggressive strategy to open up,” as he said in August 2006.
Negotiators of the Roh and George W. Bush administrations managed to finish the first draft of the agreement in June 2007. But the FTA faced another obstacle.
While the Republicans in the United States and the Grand Nationals were favorable to the deal, the Democrats in the United States, including then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, made their opposition clear.
Obama showed particular concerns about the clauses concerning the automotive industry, and his position didn’t change after he took the oath of office.
President Obama’s position was only reversed in the aftermath of the financial meltdown and global economic crisis.
Obama has promoted the pact as an important opportunity to increase U.S. exports and create jobs. At the end of last year, Seoul and Washington sat down again for renegotiations and revised the deal in a trade-off between Seoul’s concession on auto imports and a U.S. concession on the pork tariff.
Following the revision, the FTA was finally submitted to Congress earlier this month after nearly five years of delay. It took only five working days in Congress to pass it.
The Lee administration urged lawmakers to act fast so that it can take effect as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2012. To this end, the Grand Nationals have said they want a floor vote before the end of this month.
Now the ball is in the National Assembly’s court, but the Democrats here said they won’t approve the deal as it is, demanding renegotiation and revision.
Political observers and sources inside the DP said the largest opposition party is focused on winning working-class votes ahead of next year’s legislative and presidential elections by protesting the FTA.
Maintaining a liberal alliance with smaller, leftist political parties and the labor community by opposing the FTA also appears to be another motive.
When the Grand Nationals approved the Korea-EU free trade agreement in May, the Democrats boycotted the floor vote because Democratic Party Chairman Sohn Hak-yu wanted the DP’s alliance with the Democratic Labor Party to be maintained.
“There is a need for the DP to leave a clear record that it has protested the FTA as the largest opposition party,” a DP official said.
The labor community, particularly the two umbrella unions, also disagrees on the Korea-U.S. FTA, adding pressure on the DP. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions have said the negotiation of the FTA failed to include the opinions of the workers and that the government’s measure to protect jobs in a changed industrial environment in the post-FTA era lacks substance.
“The Korea-U.S. FTA had procedural flaws during its negotiation, and the government measures to protect the workers from the possible aftermath are weak,” said Jeong Mun-ju, policy planning director of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions.
He also said the government has no plan to prevent a possible massive layoff for industries that will be less competitive once the market opens. The pharmaceutical industry, he said, is one example. The jobs of 70,000 workers are at risk.
“The U.S. government has created trade adjustment assistance measures to protect the workers ahead of the Congressional approval of the FTA, but we didn’t,” Chung said. “That’s a stark contrast.”
Another source in the labor community also voiced concerns that the idea of limitless competition will grip the society after the FTA takes effect.
He said the companies will likely use layoffs as a tool to improve competitiveness and the job security of workers will face a serious risk.
“When the FTA with the United States takes effect, farmers and service industry workers, such as medical and legal company workers, will face a crisis, but eventually it will be a problem of every laborer,” he said.
The FTA is currently pending at the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, and the GNP has enough lawmakers to approve it alone at the committee as well as in the floor vote.
In the face of the ruling party’s power of majority, the DP sharpened its voice of protest.
“When the goal of the FTA is not right, how fast we approve it doesn’t really matter,” Sohn said Friday. “Just because Congress approved it, there is no reason for us to hurry. We are not a sidekick.”
Another senior DP official, Representative Chung Dong-young, went even further.
At the meeting of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee on Thursday, where the FTA was still pending, Chung railed at Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon, calling him a traitor who has attempted to make Korea an economic colony of the United States.
The Grand Nationals criticized the Democrats for disagreeing with the FTA belatedly.
“During the Roh administration, Chung was a unification minister and the chairman of the National Security Council, who practically oversaw the foreign and trade policies of the government,” said GNP Representative Nam Kyung-pil, head of the trade committee. “He shouldn’t say that right now.”
By Ser Myo-ja, Kang Ki-heon [email@example.com]
한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
정동영 "한·미 FTA 국익" → "제2 을사늑약"
5년 새 말 뒤집고 FTA 변심
민주당 정동영 최고위원은 15일 “2층 집 2층에는 미국법이, 1층에는 (한·미) 자유무역협정(FTA)이, 지하에 한국 법이 있는 것”이라며 한·미 FTA는 잘못된 것이라고 주장했다. 이날 오후 서울 중구 정동 대한문 앞에서 열린 한·미 FTA 반대 집회에서다. 정 최고위원은 그간 한·미 FTA를 맹비난해 왔다. 그의 발언은 거칠었고 비유는 자극적이었다. 지난 13일 열린 국회 외교통상통일위원회 전체회의에서 그는 “한·미 FTA는 ‘낯선 식민지’고, 국회가 이를 비준하는 건 을사늑약을 추진하는 것과 같다”고 했다.
정 최고위원은 노무현 정부 시절에는 ‘한·미 FTA=국익’이라고 주장했다. FTA 협상이 공식적으로 시작된 2006년 2월에는 당시 집권 여당인 열린우리당의 의장(지금 정당의 대표) 자격으로 공공연히 FTA 찬성 입장을 밝혔다. 그해 2월 27일 그는 라디오 프로그램에 출연해 ‘개방형 통상국가론’을 강조하면서 “미국과의 FTA는 불가피하다”고 주장했다. 그러면서 “미국시장을 넓혀가는 것, 그것이 국익”이라고 강조했다. 폭로전문 웹사이트 위키리크스에 따르면 정 최고위원은 같은 해 3월 17일 여당 대표 자격으로 알렉산더 버시바우 당시 주한 미국 대사를 만나 “지난 53년간은 상호방위조약이 양자 관계의 중요한 기둥이었다”며 “일단 FTA가 완성되면 향후 50년간 관계를 지탱시켜줄 두 번째 중요한 기둥이 생겨나는 것”이라고 말했다.
2007년 10월 당시 대통합민주신당의 대통령 후보로 선출된 다음에도 한·미 FTA를 홍보하는 데 앞장섰다. 그해 11월 9일 대선후보 자격으로 한국선진화 포럼에 참석해 “다음 정부에서는 FTA를 전면적이고 전(全) 세계적·전(全) 방위적으로 체결하는 전략을 밀고 나갈 것”이라고 말했다.
그런 그가 지난해 10월 3일 치러진 민주당 전당대회에서 한·미 FTA 전면재협상론을 주장했다. 이를 두고 당내에서는 좌파진영의 점수를 딸 수 있는 이슈를 선점하기 위한 전략이라고 보는 이들이 많지만 “상황에 따라 말을 바꾸는 변신의 달인 같다”고 꼬집는 이들도 적지 않다.
문재인 노무현재단 이사장은 저서 『문재인의 운명』에서 정 최고위원이 2007년 열린우리당을 탈당한 걸 거론하며 “열린우리당이 분당 위기로 치닫고 있을 때 대통령과의 회동에서 ‘당적 문제는 본질이 아니다’라는 말만 되풀이해 두 분의 만남은 뒤끝까지 좋지 않게 끝났다”고 적었다. 열린우리당 의장을 지내고서도 당적 문제를 별것 아닌 것처럼 말하며 탈당해 버린 정 최고위원에 대한 불만을 표출한 것이다.
국회 통일외교통상위원장인 한나라당 남경필 의원은 최근 트위터에 ‘정 의원께서는 노무현 대통령 시절 외교통상통일 문제의 실질적 책임자 아니었나요. 지금 와서 저런 말씀을 하시니? 정말 이해하기 힘듭니다’라는 글을 올렸다. 이에 대해 정 최고위원은 반응을 보이지 않았다.