Ratification of FTA with China has a Nov. deadline

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Ratification of FTA with China has a Nov. deadline

The government started Wednesday a consultation with the National Assembly to ratification of the Korea-China free trade agreement.

The trilateral conference is composed of representatives from the government and ruling and opposition parties. Policymakers of the Saenuri Party and the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) jointly headed the body.

Heads of five standing committees as well as the two parties’ chief negotiators on those committees joined the consultative body. Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Yoon Sang-jick and other concerned ministers also participated to represent the government.

The government goal is ratifying the free trade agreement (FTA) with China at a Nov. 26 voting session.

The Korea-China FTA, expected to eventually eliminate tariffs on about 90 percent of the goods traded between the two countries, was finalized in November 2014. China and Korea officially signed the deal in June and it will enter into force later this year once the legislatures of both countries approve it.

Earlier this year, the ruling party took the first step toward approving the FTA by unilaterally introducing a motion for its ratification at the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee. Opposition NPAD lawmakers boycotted the session to demand more deliberation on the issue through the creation of a special committee.

In September, the two sides agreed to discuss the trade pact among concerned committees and form a consultative body with the government to come up with measures to protect industries expected to suffer.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first round of the consultation. Starting today, standing committees of the National Assembly will talk to the government to address their concerns about the pact.

The government and the ruling party want to have a final meeting of the consultative body on Nov. 24 to conclude compensation measures based on all the committees’ recommendations.

The Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee will then vote on the ratification resolution on Nov. 25 and a final vote will take place on Nov. 26.

“For Korea to gain an advantage in the Chinese market, which comprises 25 percent of our exports, the FTA must take effect this year,” Minister Yoon said. “Because it takes at least a month for the FTA to go into effect after the National Assembly’s ratification, the passage must be completed by Nov. 26.”

NPAD chief policymaker Rep. Choi Jae-cheon made clear the opposition won’t be pushed to meet a deadline set by the government and the ruling party.

“We do not oppose the Korea-China FTA,” he said. “But we don’t have a set timetable.”

“We want to be faithful to the legislature’s duty,” he said. “We will scrutinize meticulously if the economic feasibility assessment was properly conducted, if the agreement truly reflected national interests and if the government drafted satisfactory compensation measures.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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