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National Interests vs. Countermeasures

Posted May. 26, 2008 01:10,   


Politicians fiercely wrangled over the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement on Monday, just three days before the 17th National Assembly ends its term.

The governing Grand National Party (GNP) requested the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) to join an extra parliamentary session from Monday to Thursday, to no avail. In response, the GNP appealed to the public to help the FTA to be ratified for national interests.

○ “The UDP is ruining the nation”: GNP

GNP floor leader Ahn Sang-soo said at the party’s supreme council meeting on the same day that the KORUS FTA is a matter that shouldn’t be politically dealt with or negotiated for partisan interests. “If the UDP refuses to join the extra session to link the FTA ratification with the formation of parliamentary committees at the 18th National Assembly, this will be regarded as betrayal to the people and an act to ruin the nation,” Ahn said.

As National Assembly Speaker Lim Chae-jung refused to have a talk with him, Ahn submitted a written request that urges Lim to call upon his authority to take up the FTA motion for a parliamentary call.

“If we do not pass the FTA motion, we will regret it for a long time. I hope leaders from all walks of life understand the importance of the matter and the strategic significance of passing it at the National Assembly. Pease support the GNP’s efforts along with the people,” said Lee Hahn-koo, chairman of the GNP’s policy-making committee.

On leading U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s letter to President George W. Bush, urging him not to submit the "badly flawed" FTA with Korea to Congress for a vote, many politicians pointed out that this is evidence showing that the bilateral trade agreement works to Korea’s advantage.

“Obama believes that the FTA is disadvantageous to the United States. He is even saying that it is like giving up the U.S. market for free. A prompt ratification will greatly serve Korea’s national interests,” Ahn said.

When asked if Obama’s comments were politically motivated during a radio program, Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said yes and added that the United States is entering the presidential race period.

○ UDP threatens to take the protest outside the assembly

The UDP has decided to derail the extra parliamentary session, which was convened on the request of the GNP alone, by refusing to participate in it.

UDP lawmakers argued that they will not fall a victim to the GNP’s ploy of diverting public attention from the beef disputes to the one on the FTA. The UNP plans to pass the FTA motion in the 18th assembly after coming up with countermeasures to compensate for the losses in the domestic market. The UDP has also decided to resume their offense against the government and the GNP, following a setback in their failure to pass a bill that urges to oust Agricultural Minister Chung Woon-chun.

The three opposition parties -- the UDP, the Liberty Forward Party and the Democratic Labor Party -- are planning to apply for an injunction against U.S. beef imports once the government promulgates the new sanitary terms on U.S. beef imports. They are even considering lodging a constitutional petition if the details of the promulgation are completely unacceptable.

“First of all, we are reviewing staging a sit-in protest in the National Assembly. If things go worse, we may not rule out the possibility of staging a protest outside the assembly,” said UDP spokesman Choi Jae-sung.

Meanwhile, the floor leaders of the three oppositional parties, Kim Hyo-seok, Kwon Sun-taik and Chun Young-se plan to visit Prime Minister Han Seung-soo on Tuesday to urge him to stop pushing the U.S. beef import notification and renegotiate the beef deal with the United States.

In a joint press conference on Monday, the three floor leaders said, “If (the government) pushes for the promulgation, efforts to renegotiate American beef imports will be futile and it will drive the country into catastrophe.” They also stressed that the government should sternly punish those who neglected their duties of protecting public health during the beef negotiation and also immediately stop violent oppressions against peaceful candlelight vigils.

○ Gov’t to release U.S. beef import notification by Friday

Prime Minister Han convened a meeting at the Central Government Complex with ministers related to the KORUS FTA. “Korea’s FTA with the United States, which will provide more opportunities for trade, is the core task in stimulating the country’s economy. It should transcend ideologies and administrations. I urge politicians to make sure to make a decision that helps revive the economy and serves a greater cause, and pass the FTA motion in the 17th assembly,” he said.

The Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries plans to announce the notification on sanitary terms between Wednesday and Friday. “As related ministries are discussing countermeasures for cattle farm industries, it will be difficult to announce the notification by Tuesday. However, we will be able to announce it between Wednesday and Friday,” said the ministry’s spokesman Kim Hyun-soo.

Agriculture Minister Chung plans to hold a press briefing prior to the announcement to explain measures to inspect U.S. beef and assist the cattle industry, such as by tightening up the government’s crackdown on the false country of origin labeling.

Meanwhile, a special team of inspectors from the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service, who were dispatched to the United States on May 12 to check the sanitary conditions and inspection procedures of U.S. slaughter houses, arrived at Incheon International Airport on Monday afternoon. The inspector team inspected 31 U.S. slaughter houses permitted to export beef to Korea once the new beef import conditions come into effect.