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DP boycotts FTA hearing as GNP plans passage

Aug. 24, 2011 - 19:28 By
By Bae Hyun-jung
Parties are again at odds over the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade bill, despite their hard-reached agreement last week to hold a public hearing on the issue.
The parliamentary foreign affairs committee held a public hearing on Wednesday on measures to prevent harm to the local agriculture, fishing and livestock industries.
The event, however, took place in the absence of Democratic Party members, who earlier asked for a schedule delay, citing the lack of time and of panelists.
The main opposition DP’s members say they will also boycott Thursday’s session on compensation measures for small and middle-sized enterprises, party officials said.
“Though we agreed to hold the hearings this week, it was only on Friday that the government came up with its additional aid measures, which were yet insufficient,” said Rep. Kim Dong-cheol, the leading DP member of the committee.
“The hearings would be a mere formality for the ruling Grand National Party to have the current bill ratified, unless we are given enough time to examine the given measures.”
More actions may be considered, should the ruling party decide to push ahead with the bill ratification, Kim said.
The DP members also turned down some of the committee’s budget bills concerning the foreign and unification ministries, largely in protest against the GNP’s moves.
Kim’s GNP counterpart Rep. Yoo Ki-june, however, claimed that the day’s hearing took place as scheduled and that all issues were properly discussed.
The inter-party conflict was once again sparked by the GNP’s pledge on Tuesday to have the bill ratified by the end of October, during the parliament’s regular session.
The regular session is to kick off next Thursday and will last 100 days until Dec. 9, according to officials.
“We plan to lay the FTA bill on the parliamentary foreign affairs committee by Sep. 5, have it ratified by Sep. 17 and then pass the issue to the general meeting by October,” said Rep. Lee Myung-gyu, the party’s vice floor leader.
The DP hit back, insisting on the so-called “10+2” plan, demanding that the government revises 10 articles from the FTA and two from the local free trade bill.
“The two articles from the free trade bill are subject to revision, as they belong to the domestic realm, but those from the agreement itself are not open to renegotiation,” said Rep. Lee.