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Both Roh and Lee Fail to Show Leadership on FTA Ratification

Both Roh and Lee Fail to Show Leadership on FTA Ratification

Posted February. 20, 2008 04:52,   


Outgoing President Roh Moo-hyun and incoming President Lee Myung-bak met on Monday at Cheong Wa Dae and agreed to do their utmost to ratify the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in the National Assembly. As legislative members drag their feet on the issue, both the president and the president-elect bear some responsibility for the FTA’s ratification. Their mutual agreement comes late, and, most of all, lacks the means to mobilize the support necessary to finalize the trade agreement.

If they had really wanted quick ratification of the historic trade agreement, they would have focused all their energies to enlist the support of the National Assembly immediately following the presidential elections. They should have sought parliamentary approval with direct and explicit measures such as the issuance of public statements and declarations.

After the meeting, spokesmen from both outgoing and incoming administrations praised their leaders for reaching a consensus by saying that Roh and Lee did so despite their busy schedules. But in the eyes of the public, it looks like a political show in an attempt to leave the impression that the two made some efforts.

Roh and Lee met on Dec. 28 last year and agreed to the resolution regarding U.S. beef imports, which the U.S. demands as a precondition to the treaty’s ratification in Congress. But the two stopped short of making an action plan. There have been no discussions over follow-up measures. Rather, they appeared to be passing the political burden of ratification off on each other.

Ratification of the KORUS FTA is an issue of profound importance that directly affects our national interest. Support and opposition have, of course, been expected, and conflict and tension between diverse interest groups have also been anticipated. However, a true national leader must overcome all the challenges and hammer out a national consensus over what is right for the country. I would like to ask both whether they have made these efforts. Has either of them even bothered to call or persuade individual lawmakers opposing the accord for fear of a possible backlash prior to the general elections?

Since the trade agreement was sent to the National Assembly for ratification five months ago, President Roh has shown little interest on the issue. While turning a deaf ear to the urges of the business community for complete ratification of the agreement before the end of his term, Roh has instead occupied himself with the president-elect’s government reorganization plan. Now, Roh says he has reached an agreement with Lee. But we really want to know what consensus he reached. Neither is President-elect Lee free from responsibility. He should be mindful that political posturing will not solve any problems let alone ratification of the KORUS FTA.