Illogical opposition to the FTA

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Illogical opposition to the FTA

Opponents to the free trade deal with the United States have become more intransigent than ever. Three opposition parties agreed after an executive meeting not to support the agreement that was ratified by the U.S. Congress in October, timed with President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to Washington. Yet ironically, the main opposition Democratic Party actually initiated the framework for the free trade agreement during the last administration, when it was the ruling power.

The FTA has already been revised once, and further rewriting is no longer possible. Yet the opposition camp, still feeling triumphant after winning the Seoul mayoral by-election, is pushing its coalition forces to nullify the FTA in an attempt to gain the political upper hand ahead of next year’s Parliamentary elections.

In trying to maintain a coalition for elections, the DP has become a puppet of the progressive opposition forces. These forces do not care that their actions could jeopardize ties with the U.S. and our strategy to take leadership in East Asia through free trade. The deal is too valuable to be used for political games. Our system of democracy could give way if lawmakers who should represent the people are swayed by a small group of extremists.

The opposition and civilian activists opposing the Korea-U.S. FTA lack logical ground. For instance, they demand removal a clause allowing U.S. investors to file suits against Korean companies with the Washington-based International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. They claim this option would favor U.S. companies in the event of disputes and hurt Korea’s smaller enterprises. But investor-state dispute settlement (ISD) clauses are already in our free trade deals with Singapore, Chile and European Union. They are commonplace in free trade pacts to protect investors.

And the ISD clause was included in the original deal with the U.S. during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, so this is nothing new. When the ISD issue raised controversy, the Blue House at the time said we should not jump to the conclusion that our trade transactions would be disputed.

The Korea-U.S. FTA is not a cure-all. Its success depends on how we use the momentum it creates to restructure and strengthen our corporate and policy systems. This is what former President Roh Moo-hyun said while calling for support for the deal. DP members should recall what their president said about the free trade agreement and come to their senses.
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