It’s a question of determinationThe long-stalled ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement has become a litmus test for our representative democracy way beyond the dimension of an international pact. The Lee Myung-bak administration is struggling to finalize the FTA which was signed by the Roh Moo-hyun administration to ensure continued economic prosperity.
Though some additional losses are expected as a result of the Lee administration’s renegotiation with its counterpart - particularly in the area of automobile trade - it managed to strike a balance by gaining further concessions in the fields of agriculture, meat and pharmaceutical products. The government also came up with measures to subsidize local farmers in the amount of 22 billion won ($19 million), and it followed the global standard on the thorny issue of investor-state dispute settlement. It didn’t change a word in the previous administration’s agreement with the U.S.
Yet vehement resistance from the opposition camp, including far-left civic groups, has put the ratification of the pact in de facto limbo for 12 months. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress ratified it ahead of us, convinced that its counterpart would soon follow in accordance with both governments’ agreement to make the pact go into effect from Jan. 1 next year. The opposition parties, however, are still staging a sit-in at a conference room of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee to block the bill, defying even basic principles of democracy. We have no other choice left now that a string of ludicrous FTA rumors has hit our society - with some bearing a grim resemblance to the preposterous myths in 2008 over mad cow disease from U.S. beef imports. The ratification bill should be put to a vote quickly. The government has explained the need for ratification enough and the opposition camp has opposed it enough.
Now lawmakers from the opposition parties must put an end to the shameless occupation of the committee room, and the ruling Grand National Party legislators must jettison their lukewarm attitude toward such aberrational behavior. Both the government and the GNP must have firm convictions that they will get support from citizens when they finally put a majority vote into action. The 25 reformist members of the GNP who demanded an apology from the president for failing to revamp his governance must now take the lead in wrapping up the ratification rather than shifting the blame to him. Unflinching courage and determination is what the ruling party needs most.