Time to put the FTA to a vote

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Time to put the FTA to a vote

The main opposition Democratic Party again occupied a conference room of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee at the National Assembly in order to stage a sit-in against ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement yesterday. DP lawmakers even attempted to block Nam Kyung-pil, the committee chairman from the ruling Grand National Party, from entering the room to thwart the submission of the ratification bill to the committee. We are again dumbfounded at the opposition camp’s age-old practice of trying to score political points from an economic pact.

Both the ruling and opposition parties have done their best to finalize the trade pact as neatly as possible since the Roh Moo-hyun administration signed the FTA with the U.S. government four years ago. Following countless debates on the pact, representatives on both sides of the aisle and government representatives held full-fledged debates on the issue for five consecutive days last month. But an additional debate was not held because Chung Dong-young, a former DP chairman, and Lee Jung-hee, chairman of the minor opposition Democratic Labor Party, did not join the debate in a dereliction of their duty as lawmakers.

Despite sharp discrepancies in their opinions, sincere discussion by representatives of both parties has continued. As a result, both parties’ floor leaders were able to hammer out an agreement last night that accommodated most of what the DP had been demanding. Some politicians from the ruling party even say that the GNP made too many concessions in the last-ditch debate.

Yet, the DP vetoed the agreement in a general meeting of its own members, demanding another renegotiation with the Obama administration. It is a move defying common sense and normal legislative procedure. We believe that behind the DP’s mysterious actions lies an intention to capitalize on the FTA for political purposes in advance of the upcoming general and presidential elections next year by seeking a grand coalition with other opposition forces, including the far-left Democratic Labor Party in particular. That’s why the DP is never free from the cynical accusation that it has turned into the second battalion of a tiny leftist party.

As confirmed in a poll conducted by the DP, a majority of people - 58 percent - favors the trade pact. The only option left for the party is to cast votes in the National Assembly. Both sides have done what they could. Now it is time for them to respect the will of the people.
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