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Beef Issue Threatens FTA Ratification

Posted May. 05, 2008 08:15,   


With the growing concerns about and backlash against the resumption of U.S. beef imports, the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement could fail to get ratification in the 17th National Assembly.

The United Democratic Party decided to hand over the matter of ratification to the 18th National Assembly, in order to focus on passing a special law to nullify the beef negotiation between Seoul and Washington and hold a hearing about the issue.

UDP spokesman Choi Jae-seong said on Sunday, “We will nullify the beef negotiation by cooperating with other opposition parties and propose a special law that can serve as a legal stepping stone to renegotiation.”

Hence, during the extraordinary session of the National Assembly, the beef import hearing and the proposal to nullify the negotiation are likely to emerge as one of the hottest issues between the ruling and opposition parties.

The UDP will hold a committee for the nullification of beef imports with the presence of party leader Sohn Hak-kyu to negotiate the process for proposing the special law on Monday and will seek to extend the National Assembly’s extraordinary session, if necessary.

However, some point out that denying the negotiation signed by Korea and U.S. representatives by proposing a special law afterwards is against the diplomatic etiquette and is likely to cause conflict with the international law.

“We are in a situation where we have to be determined to face all-out systematic, legal and diplomatic conflicts,” said the UDP spokesman. “Otherwise, we cannot renegotiate.”

After the hearing on Wednesday, the UDP will propose a bill to dismiss Food Minister Chung Woon-chun.

In response, the ruling Grand National Party is preparing for the hearing with its floor leader Ahn Sang-soo and members of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Committee under the National Assembly.

The GNP plans to use the hearing as an arena where it could address questions and suspicions of the public as much as possible. A key GNP member said, “We will not be influenced by the opposition parties’ political tactics and will prove that beef from the United States is not dangerous by providing scientific evidence as much as we can. We will offer government officials plenty of time to explain about it.”

As the beef renegotiation emerges as the last hot issue in the 17th National Assembly, more UDP lawmakers, who had claimed that the 17th National Assembly must ratify the FTA for the national interests, are now changing their views.

“We tried to persuade lawmakers of the Seoul metropolitan area to ratify it in May but we can no longer do that,” the UDP leader said on April 30. “We came down to the conclusion that the ratification in the 17th National Assembly is impossible.”

“The beef negotiation results did not reflect the national interests at all,” Kim Won-woong, head of the National Assembly’s Unification, Diplomacy, and Trade Committee, said. “I think it is impossible to ratify the KORUS FTA in the 17th National Assembly.”

The opposition parties including the UDP and the Democratic Labor Party plan to become offensive during the hearing, based on five major points: explanations about the beef import negotiation processes; scientific proof on safety of imported beef; which side will have the authority of quarantine; measures for beef farmers; and nullification of the negotiation and follow-up measures.

leon@donga.com ditto@donga.com