No excuse for blocking FTA

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No excuse for blocking FTA

The heated debate on the merits and demerits of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement at the National Assembly is finally over. A full-fledged discussion for four days came to a frustrating end with both the ruling and opposition camps not budging an inch on a truly momentous issue for Korea.

We expected sharp discrepancies to emerge from both sides of the aisle, yet their unenlightened fight leaves us disappointed. Had the members of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee struck a deal on some of the thorny issues, they could have taken a step closer to the ratification of the trade pact. With the debate over without any tangible results, we have no other option than putting the bill to a vote in the committee and at a plenary session of the National Assembly.

It is common sense that another renegotiation with the United States is impossible now that the U.S. Congress has ratified the pact that the Korean and U.S. governments signed four years ago. If we fail to ratify the deal, it would obviously deal a blow to bilateral relations. It could possibly bring dire results worse than no free trade agreement at all: the grim possibility of retaliatory measures by the United States against Korea, and a likelihood of ominous repercussions from the tense currency war between the United States and China.

The opposition parties must ask themselves why other countries, Japan in particular, envy the Korea-U.S. FTA that they are so vehemently opposed to. Japan and China want to sign FTAs with us because of our expected advantages in Northeast Asia as a result of the FTA with the United States, not to mention Korea’s leadership on the free trade front. It is very ironic that the opposition camp, including the Democratic Party, tries to find fault with the very issues they had agreed on during the Roh Moo-hyun administration.

At the moment, it is too early to tell exactly what kind of effect the Korea-U.S. FTA will have on the future of our economy, except that it depends on how we use the historic deal to our advantage, even if the agreement has elements to our disadvantage at the moment.

In the past half century, we advanced our economy because of the people’s enormous ability to cope with external changes, not thanks to favorable conditions overseas. We urge the opposition camp to heartily approve the FTA by preparing thorough measures to reduce possible damages to domestic businesses and industries that need to adjust.

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