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Parties to clash over U.S. FTA ratification

Aug. 28, 2011 - 19:37 By
Rival political parties are expected to clash once again over the long-disputed Korea-U.S Free Trade Agreement ratification during the parliament’s regular session, starting this week.

The ruling Grand National Party aims at having the pact ratified within October, in step with the U.S. Congress, which is expected to endorse its part next month, or in October at the latest.

Opposition parities, led by the Democratic Party, are set to block the GNP’s move, insisting on renegotiation of the bilateral agreement, which they say is biased in favor of the United States.

The impending match is to be on Tuesday, when the parliamentary foreign affairs committee is to meet.

“We will lay the bill to the committee for deliberation on Tuesday, as to include the issue in the September session,” said Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, GNP member and committee chairman.

Even if the committee fails to submit it on Tuesday, the GNP is determined to conclude the ratification within the October session, he said.

“We need to have the bill submitted to the general meeting, or it may go adrift amid the flows of the upcoming parliamentary audit and the Seoul Mayor by-election,” Nam said.

The main opposition DP, however, pledged to block the ruling party’s moves, claiming that the agreement should first undergo renegotiation. The DP’s so-called “10+2” renegotiation plan involves the modifying two clauses in domestic laws and 10 in the agreement itself.

“The reason we are demanding a renegotiation is because we mean to start discussing related issues back from zero,” said Rep. Kim Dong-cheol, DP negotiator of the committee.

He said the parliament needs to re-examine the bilateral agreement and add more measures to protect local industries expected to be affected adversely by it. Also, it is inappropriate for the ruling party to push ahead with the ratification processes, while a consultative body, comprising representatives from rival parties, is yet debating on the issue, he said.

Ruling party officials, however, denounced the DP for holding up the bill for no practical reason.

“It is impossible to overturn the clauses of the agreement at this point in time and the DP’s attempt to hold back the ratification is no more than time-wasting,” said GNP Rep. Yoo Ki-june.

“The ratification bill was submitted back in June and it is now high time we took some steps forward.”

Rep. Lee Myung-gyu, vice floor leader of the party, also pointed out that most of the 10 clauses which the DP asked for modification were based on the agreement drafted during the former liberal government of President Roh Moo-hyun.

The parliament’s regular session, the last one before next year’s 19th general election, is to start this Thursday, to last for 100 days.

By Bae Hyun-jung (