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[Editorial] Pro-FTA Arguments Needed

Posted July. 14, 2006 03:01,   


Protests against the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement took place in many cities across the nation including Seoul simultaneously yesterday and the day before. Anti-FTA activists are systematically exaggerating the potential negative effects of it, and are even distributing false information. One “horror story” circulating is, “You have to pay as much as 100,000 won just to get a prescription for a cold if Korea signs an FTA with the U.S.,” which is a groundless rumor. What has the Korean government been doing so far to counter this?

President Roh has led efforts to strengthen the government’ capability in terms of public relations, saying, “State affairs are running smoothly, but PR is not.” To this end, PR systems of each and every government ministry and agency have been reorganized, and budget and human resources for policy promotion have significantly increased. The government even established its own media outlet, saying that it did not trust the established media and press. As shown in such cases, the Roh administration has been keen to publicize activities and said that an FTA with the U.S. is one of the two most important priorities in his remaining term in office. Under the circumstances that even TV programs are flooded with anti-FTA arguments, it is doubtful whether the government has been trying to advertise the importance of the FTA.

If the government has prepared for the FTA talks from mid-2004, it should have informed the general public why Korea needed an FTA with the U.S. with detailed and systematic publicity efforts.

An FTA by its nature makes it harder for a country to persuade its own people than to negotiate with its counterpart. The Korean government must have experienced this in the process of the Korea-Chile FTA negotiations and has a strong will to go ahead with the U.S. FTA, but its publicity efforts have been disappointing.

It has failed to show a clear picture and provide concrete information about the positive effects and benefits that the FTA would bring to individual industries and has just listed them vaguely. It also paid little attention to the consensus-building process as shown in the cases of two failed public hearings. In addition, it failed to explain how an FTA would help the nation strengthen its economic capabilities and create favorable conditions in its economic relationship with China.

President Roh ordered the forming of a taskforce to persuade the people and reach a consensus, and the Prime Minister rebuked related ministers on July 13. That is like locking the barn door after the horse is stolen. What can we expect from a government that is preparing for a significant decision so carelessly that will determine the future of the nation and its people? We can expect action better late than never. It is time for the President to act.