Industry ministry welcomes move of trade division

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Industry ministry welcomes move of trade division

A day after Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan expressed frustration over the incoming administration’s proposal to move the trade division from his ministry to an industry ministry, Knowledge Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo took the opposite position and welcomed the move, saying it will “enhance the global competitiveness of local industries.”

Hong’s response was also shared by both ruling and opposition lawmakers from the National Assembly’s Knowledge Economy Committee, who said the country’s trade affairs function has been limited over the past 15 years while being under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“The Ministry of Knowledge Economy is expected to be given control of the country’s trade and trade-pact-signing functions, and will be reorganized into the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources,” Hong said yesterday in a meeting convened by the National Assembly’s knowledge economy committee.

The meeting was put together to review President-elect Park Geun-hye’s government restructuring plan that was announced and confirmed by her transition team.

Members of the National Assembly’s eight committees must review 37 bills related to the government restructuring as part of a legislative procedure to launch Park’s administration on Feb. 25.

“I hope that the reorganization will boost the country’s trade policies by utilizing expertise on industry policies and also the overseas competitiveness of local industries,” Hong said.

Hong’s comments come one day after Foreign Minister Kim said the incoming administration’s plan could “lead to results that shake the framework of the Constitution and also the National Government Organization Act.”

He was speaking on behalf of the Foreign Ministry, in which officials have expressed concerns over the downsizing of the ministry.

Kim said while the president has the power to sign and ratify trade deals with other countries under the Constitution, and that power has been so far entrusted to the foreign minister, handing over the trade-related functions to the industry ministry would be going against the Constitution. His remarks were derided by the presidential transition team as “chop logic.”

“Signing treaties is the authority of the president,” Hong said. “And if that authority is given by the president to somebody else [other than the foreign minister] by revising the National Government Organization Act, anyone will have it.”

Both ruling and opposition party lawmakers of the knowledge economy committee backed Hong.

“[Trade] deals were overly pushed in the past, which saw opposition from small- and mid-sized companies or farmers,” said Representative Lee Kang-hu from the ruling Saenuri Party.

“From now on, it will be only right to promote practical interests rather than [simply] trade deals.”


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

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