GNP calls for rare move to break FTA deadlock

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GNP calls for rare move to break FTA deadlock

With the Democratic Party physically obstructing the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, the Grand National Party called for a Committee of the Whole House that opposition lawmakers fear could allow the ruling party to pass the bill using procedural maneuvering.

A Committee of the Whole House, which can be convened by a request from more than a quarter of the National Assembly, is often used to allow the full chamber to discuss important legislation and can be used as the preceding step before a bill is put to a floor vote by the speaker.

Scheduled for either today or tomorrow, the Committee of the Whole House itself is only permitted to deliberate on the FTA and is not allowed to vote on it.

“The decision to hold the Committee of the Whole House came because the situation doesn’t allow the deliberation of the FTA at the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee,” said Representative Nam Kyung-pil of the GNP who is chair of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.

Nam added, “It is intended to give lawmakers the opportunity to openly state their positions on the FTA before the nation.”

Yet opposition lawmakers fear the Committee of the Whole House will be used by the GNP to make a motion to the National Assembly speaker, a former Grand National Party lawmaker, to use his powers to put the FTA to a floor vote. It is technically possible to put a bill up for a vote immediately following the Committee of the Whole House.

“We cannot accept the request [to hold the Committee of the Whole House],” said Representative Hong Young-pyo, spokesman for the DP.

He argued that a Committee of the Whole House could only be called for bills that have already been passed by a standing committee and criticized the GNP’s move as an “invitation for a melee.”

Since the Constitutional Assembly, a Committee of the Whole House has been convened eight times, including deliberations on the Korean War armistice in 1953 and the decision to send troops to Iraq in 2003.

The GNP’s call for a Committee of the Whole House came after opposition lawmakers staged another physical blockade yesterday morning to prevent GNP lawmakers from entering the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee room.

The opposition lawmakers finally permitted GNP lawmakers to enter the room after Nam promised them that the FTA would not be on the agenda. Instead, the committee discussed budget bills for the Ministry of Unification.

Yesterday’s physical obstruction followed Monday’s breakdown of round-the-clock negotiations between the two sides.

DP lawmakers rejected a hard-won compromise reached by party leaders and physically blocked GNP lawmakers from holding a committee vote to advance the pact to the full National Assembly.

The GNP yesterday also began public activities to pressure the opposition by talking to farmers and small retailers.

“From now on, the GNP will meet with them directly and discuss compensation measures,” said Representative Hwang Woo-yea, floor leader of the GNP.

The DP also held a caucus meeting yesterday morning and reconfirmed their determination to block the GNP at all costs if the ruling party attempted to pass the FTA with its large majority.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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