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Presidential office welcomes parliamentary approval of U.S. FTA

Yonhap News, Korea

Presidential office welcomes parliamentary approval of U.S. FTA

By Chang Jae-soon

22 November 2011

SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s presidential office welcomed the parliamentary approval of the free trade agreement with the United States, saying the government will continue to come up with support measures for farmers and others.

"Though it went through a difficult process, it is fortunate that the Korea-U.S. FTA has been ratified today," senior presidential press secretary Choe Guem-nak said. "We are grateful to the people who have provided absolute support for the Korea-U.S. FTA so far."

Choe also expressed gratitude to lawmakers.

"The government will actively pursue measures for farmers and smaller business owners, which have been raised in the course of parliamentary discussions, in policies, and continue to put together measures to strengthen their competitiveness," he said.

The official also said that the government will try to make sure that the pact will help invigorate South Korea’s economy and create jobs for young people.

Choe also said that President Lee Myung-bak is considering addressing the public on the trade deal, but did not elaborate. The deal’s passage came just a couple of hours after Lee returned from a trip to Southeast Asia.

The trade pact had been in political limbo in parliament for months as the main opposition Democratic Party demanded revisions, especially of a dispute-settlement clause it claims unfairly favors the U.S.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, Lee proposed that he would seek renegotiation of the contentious clause if the parliament ratifies the deal first, but the opposition party rejected the demand, sticking to its position that the deal should be revised first.

Choe said that the government could seek renegotiation with the U.S. on the dispute settlement clause if there is a request from the National Assembly, as the pact provides that either party can demand renegotiation within 90 days after it goes into effect.

The official said Lee has no plan yet to speak by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama.