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Rival parties clash again over KORUS FTA

Korea Times, Seoul

Rival parties clash again over KORUS FTA

19 September 2011

By Chung Min-uck

The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) clashed again Monday over when to ratify the pending Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) on the first day of the 20-day annual inspection of state affairs.

The two rival parties this time differed in their opinion on the economic impact of the pact referring to previous free trade deals made with other countries.

“The KORUS FTA is the best choice (for Korea). In order to enter the American market prior to China and Japan, the parliamentary should pass the bill as soon as possible at the regular session,” said Rep. Yoo Ki-june of the GNP, a member of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, during a parliamentary inspection on the Foreign Ministry.

As the basis of the claim, he said exports into countries like Chile that signed trade pacts with Korea increased 30 percent on average, 17.5 percent growth compared to the pre-agreement period.

Yet, committee members of the DP denied the favorable results of the free trade deals to insist on the need to renegotiate the KORUS FTA instead.

“The records for the Korea-Chile and Korea-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) free trade agreements are disastrous,” said Park Joo-Sun of the DP.

“The government has been insisting on the unconditional goodness of FTAs but the different outcomes on the deals show that misguided negotiations could inversely lead to pre-occupancy of our own market.”

According to the report submitted by the Foreign Ministry to the committee, Korea experienced an $8.9 billion and $8.8 billion trade deficit against Chile and the EFTA, since the trade deals took effect four and seven years ago, respectively.

On the other hand, FTAs with Singapore, Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India saw results in the black.

“It could be an achievement by the trade ministry just by making FTA deals, but it should be the right ones for companies and citizens to benefit,” said Park.

The parties have been locking horns over the right time to ratify the KORUS FTA since the committee chairman Nam Kyung-pil of the GNP introduced the bill Friday despite objections from DP members.

Both sides have also haggled over policy towards North Korea.

The GNP committee members asked the foreign ministry to take a flexible, principled approach while their DP counterparts called for unconditional resumption of talks with the North in various areas.

The National Assembly will carry out the inspection of 563 related ministries and institutions until Oct. 8.