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Ending FTA Hearings Before October Is Unlikely

Posted May. 02, 2007 03:39,   


This newspaper carried out telephone interviews over the prospects of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) passing through the U.S. Congress with four experts: Jeffrey J. Schott, a senior fellow with the Institute for International Economics; Claude Barfield, a resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute; Larry Allen Niksch, a Specialist in Asian Affairs with the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, and Anthony B. Kim, a research associate in the Center for International Trade and Economics at the Heritage Foundation.

Schott says, “During discussions in Congress, economic as well as political factors will be considered. It will be a contentious and comprehensive debate. But Congress eventually is expected to ratify the FTA given the economic and political interests at stake. But unless beef issues are resolved, the Bush administration cannot afford to summit a confirmation bill to Capitol Hill. To shed light on FTA negotiations, both governments should show strong confidence in each other.”

Barfield says, “Even if the beef issue is solved, all barriers will not disappear. But its resolution is a precondition for confirmation. Considering the premise, chances of passing the bill are around 50 percent.”

Kim says, “Once 6.5 tons of beef return to Korea and draw a market response, American lawmakers representing U.S. beef exporters, including senator Max Baucus, could turn into moderates. If the issue gets cleared up, automobiles will be the center of focus. On Capitol Hill, a heated debate will happen between liberals and protectionists.”

Niksch says, “Congressional confirmation is not impossible; however, it will be a bumpy road. Leading lawmakers do not welcome several issues. Some of them are discontent about the negotiations’ outcomes, which are in the economic interest of their constituencies. Particularly, the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) has a huge influence on Democratic Party. On the other hand, many corporate groups will lobby for the passage of the FTA as they expect the benefits of the bilateral trade deal to trickle down to them.

He also points out the FTA’s effects on the upcoming U.S. presidential election. KORUS FTA hearings are less likely to conclude within one or two days and more likely to become a thorough and controversial process. So completions of hearings before October and a confirmation vote by then are less likely.

Then Democratic Party’s open primary beginning in December is expected to ask presidential candidates to state a clear stance on the FTA.