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[Editorial] Liberal FTA Opposition

Posted March. 02, 2007 07:02,   


Just one year after the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was reached, two-way trade and investment significantly increased. It was the same for the Korea-Chile FTA. If Seoul cuts a free trade deal with the world’s biggest economy, the U.S., we can expect an incomparably bigger impact than any other FTA.

For starters, Korean companies can access the U.S. market with more favorable conditions than those of rival countries. The Korea-U.S. FTA, or KORUS FTA, will be instrumental to developing Korea’s industries into high tech manufacturing industry or high added-value service industries such as finance, logistics, medical care, law, communication, and information. We can cite many more reasons for signing the FTA. It will enhance our national strength and public welfare through trade and free market commerce.

The development of history is a process of securing human dignity, as social members free themselves from the shackles of oppression and poverty, and see their quality of life improve. Liberals pursue such development, while those who try to reverse that process are called conservatives. Pragmatism, which aims at improving quality-of-life, often goes along with liberalism. On the other hand, making people’s lives harder with empty ideology is referred to anti-liberalism. In Korea, however, a hilarious debate is taking place over doctrinal liberalism vs. flexible liberalism, which is a debate over the pros and cons of the KORUS FTA. There is no such thing. Those who oppose the FTA are just backward leftist conservatives, trying to go against historical progress and change.

Self-appointed liberals say they are against the KORUS FTA for the sake of those who will have losses from a market opening, such as farmers. For the vulnerable, however, we should capitalize on the FTA to strengthen the competitiveness of those industries and increase job opportunities in other industries. As such, we can accumulate national wealth and strengthen our social safety net. Opposition without alternatives is an irresponsible act that keeps those that are suffering in a state of poverty or makes them poorer. In Britain, during the early industrialization era, the Luddites conducted an uprising against technology, the Luddite movement, claiming that jobs would be replaced with machines. The anti-FTA movement is no different from that. Opponents to the FTA are conservatives, or blind liberals at best.

With rapid progress in negotiations, we are now in the 8th round of KORUS FTA talks. Considering the pending issues over the Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) of the U.S. Congress, which will be concluded this June, however, the actual deadline for FTA negotiations is the end of this month. We must focus our effort in reaching a deal with maximized benefits. We have no time to listen to groundless opposition or illegal protests.