JoongAng, Korea, February 3, 2006
[EDITORIALS] Pact could mature alliance
Korea and the United States have announced that they have started free trade agreement negotiations. Excluding Singapore ― a city-state ― and Australia, this is the first free trade pact the United States is making with a key player in Asia.
In the negotiation process, the two countries may hold fierce debates to protect their own weak areas. During this, conflict between different interest groups at home may get deeper and some of the debates could shift to become ideological disputes.
Yet, for Korea, which chose an open free trade system, free trade agreements are a fact that cannot be avoided. They are also a global trend. This is proved by the fact that since the World Trade Organization was launched in 1995, free trade agreements have thrived and now 95 countries worldwide have concluded trade pacts.
Such an agreement not only has huge significance from an economic aspect but also on the levels of security and strategy.
In 1985, the United States made its first agreement with Israel, considering its military strategy. It chose Bahrain and Jordan for free trade pacts after 9/11.
Even U.S. trade representatives have said that the goal of a free trade agreement is to heighten U.S. economic and strategic gains.
China and Japan also use free trade agreements as part of a regional strategy operation. One example is that Japan chose India as a priority trade partner after China signed a free trade pact for goods with the Association of South East Asian Nations, also known as Asean.
The relationship between Korea and the United States until now was a firm security alliance to prevent the spread of communism. Although the threat from North Korea still exists, the base for the alliance has weakened since the communist bloc collapsed. The relationship between the two countries also suffered substantial damage after left-wing nationalism gained strength in Korea. Therefore, pressure is increasing for the two countries to progress to a more inclusive alliance in an environment where the values of democracy and the market economy are spreading. The announcement of free trade agreement negotiations is an expression of a will to establish a more developed general alliance, not only in ideology and military on a security level, but also in economic gains.
Through a free trade agreement, we expect the two nations can settle the tension between them and move toward a comprehensive and mature alliance that is upgraded to match the times.