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[Editorial] Hold Lawmakers Accountable

Posted January. 20, 2007 04:59,   


During the sixth round of Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, which ended yesterday, a confidential report on Korea’s negotiation strategy was leaked. The leakage was made as parts of a document, which was presented by the government before National Assembly’s special committee as reference for a closed-door meeting, had been released and reported by some media outlets. During the talks, U.S. chief negotiator Wendy Cutler reportedly said to South Korea’s chief negotiator Kim Jong-hoon, “I’ve combed through the report.” This is a huge embarrassment. Moreover, since the U.S. negotiation team had probably prepared appropriate countermeasures to Korea’s strategy based on the report before returning to the negotiation table, Korea’s national losses from the leakage would be enormous.

Chief negotiator Kim said, “In the U.S., those who leak such an important document like in this case are even held responsible for criminal or civil liability.” It would be only reasonable for Korea to identify those who leaked the document and to punish them. The special committee of the National Assembly should begin its own investigation immediately. Even if the leakage was made in order to let the Korean public know about the negotiation process in detail, the committee should have allowed the government to decide the timing and level of disclosure of that information first and then explain it to the public for itself. It is very suspicious that the leakage was intentionally made by some anti-FTA groups to derail negotiations.

In the first phase of the negotiations, anti-FTA groups even spread some absurd rumors such as, “After the FTA is concluded, it would cost 100,000 won to get treatment for a cold, or one million won to have a wisdom tooth pulled out.” When such arguments were found to be false, those groups came up with groundless logics like, “Even if the FTA negotiation is signed, Korea would have nothing to gain.” Finally, they are even leaking Korea’s confidential negotiation strategies and conducting smear campaigns against the government, saying, “For big deals, the government has given up a trade remedy.” If the National Assembly’s special committee is standing on the side of these anti-FTA groups, how can we possibly call it Korea’s National Assembly?

In addition, Korea should never let the pieces of bones found in imported U.S. beef become an obstacle to the FTA talks. Ensuring the safety of agricultural products is important. However, if Korea’s inspection on the entire amount of imported beef to discover pieces of bones is viewed beyond international trade practice as efforts to find faults, it will never do any good to Korea. Such an inspection could cost the nation exports of manufacturing goods including cars to the U.S. Already 11 U.S. senators have raised issue, saying, “Korea’s exports of manufactured goods to the U.S. should be linked to the nation’s level of support of U.S.-Korea FTA.” Korea must avoid incurring great losses to pursue small gains.