U.S. Experts See No Hope for FTA with Korea This Year

      January 05, 2010 10:43

      Nine out of 10 U.S. experts on Korean affairs feel it is unlikely that the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement will be ratified by the U.S. Congress this year. The Chosun Ilbo asked 10 American experts about the Korea-U.S. FTA in late December.

      Only Stephen Costello, the president of ProGlobal Consulting, a consultancy specializing in affairs related to the Korean Peninsula, saw the possibility of the bilateral FTA being ratified this year. And even he only spoke of a "growing possibility" that it could happen this summer.

      Most said there is a low chance of the FTA being ratified due to midterm elections in the U.S. in November and the economic crisis.

      Troy Stangarone, a researcher at the Korea Economic Institute, predicted that U.S. President Barack Obama will not submit the FTA bill to Congress this year due to the congressional schedule and midterm elections, adding that it would be possible to see the FTA ratified only in 2011.

      Jae Ku, the director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said that there is "zero" possibility of the FTA being ratified this year and "less than a 50 percent chance" next year.

      Balbina Hwang, a former State Department adviser on the Korean nuclear negotiations, said there is no chance either this year or next.

      Clockwise from top left, David Straub, Scott Snyder, Balbina Hwang, Bruce Klingner, Troy Stangarone, Stephen Yates, Jae Ku, John Park, Peter Beck, and Stephen Costello

      The straw poll shows that the situation has not changed although Seoul has tried to impress on both Congress and industries the importance of the FTA by all diplomatic means at its disposal since the trade pact was signed in 2007.

      This may reflect Seoul's lack of diplomatic clout, but it shows clearly that the political environment in the U.S. is not in favor of the FTA. During a summit with President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul in November, Obama expressed support for an early ratification of the FTA. But he does not seem to be in any hurry to persuade the Democratic Party's trade protectionists.

      Other experts questioned were David Straub, a former director of the Office of Korean Affairs at the State Department; Scott Snyder, director of the Center for U.S. Korea Policy; Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center; Peter Beck, a research fellow at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center of Stanford University; John Park, a senior research fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace; and Stephen Yates, the president of D.C. Asia Advisory.

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