Korea Needs to Keep Up with U.S. in FTA Ratification

      October 05, 2011 14:17

      U.S. President Barack Obama submitted the free trade agreement with Korea to the Senate for ratification on Monday. Four years and three months have passed since the two countries signed the bilateral FTA. It could take up to three months for the U.S. Senate to ratify the FTA, but it is expected to be ratified by the time Obama sits down with President Lee Myung-bak on Oct. 13, since prior negotiations have already taken place between the White House and Republican Party over the main issues surrounding the pact.

      But Korea's National Assembly will not likely be able to keep up with the pace of the U.S. Senate even if it starts the ratification process now. The FTA was submitted to the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee on Sept. 16, but there has been no progress. The main opposition Democratic Party has come up with what it calls the "10+2" proposal, which consists of 10 points it says need to be renegotiated again with the U.S. and two points that Korea needs to take care of on its own. This is expected to pose tough obstacles to the ratification process.

      Even if the National Assembly ratifies the FTA, it needs to pass scores of related bills. Nine out of 25 related bills have been ratified, but 14 remain on hold, while two can be passed within three years after the bilateral trade pact goes into effect. That means the National Assembly has to ratify the FTA and pass another 14 related bills before Seoul can inform Washington that it is ready to implement the trade pact. In contrast, Senate approval is the only thing left before the U.S. can implement the FTA.

      If the FTA goes into effect, Korea will likely see its GDP expand by another 5.66 percent, while and estimated 350,000 new jobs will be created. It stands to benefit more from the pact, which is why the automotive industry here is leading calls for a swift ratification. The global economy is undergoing a slowdown and protectionist policies are emerging everywhere, so it has become more crucial for Korea to gain added traction through the FTA.

      Korean Lawmakers cannot simply wait until the U.S. Senate ratifies it first. Lee must meet face to face with the ruling party leadership, and the Grand National Party must sit down with the opposition parties so that they can ratify the FTA even as the parliamentary inspections this week and the audit on government administration next week take place.

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