Nothing will derail FTA, vows Bark

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Nothing will derail FTA, vows Bark

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Korea’s Trade Minister Bark Tae-ho speaks in front of members of the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Korea yesterday at Lotte Hotel in central Seoul regarding the Korus FTA, which is due to take effect next Thursday. [YONHAP]


No last-minute problems will prevent Korea’s free trade agreement with the United States from coming into force next week, despite the major opposition camp’s stated desire to have the pact killed or renegotiated, the country’s trade minister said yesterday.

“The Korus FTA will go into effect [next Thursday] no matter what,” said Bark Tae-ho, the recently appointed trade minister. “There will be no unexpected hurdles.”

Bark’s comments came after he met with members of the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Korea (Amcham) to discuss some of the strategic values of the Korus FTA.

“When [the Democratic United Party] submitted a letter to U.S. President [Barack] Obama and the U.S. Congress recently, our ministry issued a statement denouncing the move as lamentable, especially given the fast-approaching deadline for the FTA’s implementation,” he told Amcham members earlier in the day.

“Such a move [by the opposition camp] did nothing to help Korea-U.S. relations and was also not good for Korea’s standing and credibility among the international community.”

Bark, a veteran economist who also formerly served as a professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of International Studies, said it was more valuable to discuss the benefits of the FTA these days rather than trade arguments and barbs with the DUP.

The trade pact in question was first signed in 2007 and is ready to go into effect on March 15. Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party, until recently the Grand National Party, railroaded it through Congress last November despite fierce protests - including one hurled tear gas canister - from opposition lawmakers.

“It’s a win-win deal for both sides that will also help create jobs, which is very important,” Bark said.

Amcham Korea President Amy Jackson said that no challenges remain in putting the pact into practice, and that the chamber and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are working with related organizations to ensure the process of implementation is as smooth as possible.

“It’s important that not just large companies but also SMEs know how to make the most of the Korus FTA,” Bark said. “Our office will be holding a dissemination session for those who are interested in learning more about the pact, especially SMEs and local governments.”

The Korea International Trade Association (KITA), led by recently appointed Chairman Han Duk-soo, the former Korean ambassador to the U.S., is also offering a one-stop service center at its headquarters in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul. This is aimed at delivering information about what changes the pact will bring to local industries and businesses.

Following the Korea-EU FTA, which was implemented last summer, the Korus FTA will ensure that “products originating in Korea have preferential access to the U.S. market, Bark said.

Meanwhile, “the general framework [of the Korea-China FTA] should be comprehensive and include sectors such as investment, services and intellectual property rights,” he added.

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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