Posted May. 23, 2009 09:46,
U.S. President Barack Obama said in a meeting with Korean Ambassador to Washington Han Duck-soo Wednesday that a free trade agreement with Korea, the seventh-largest U.S. trading partner, will strengthen and promote prosperity for the people of both countries. At a summit in London last month, Obama also expressed a strong will to make progress in concluding free trade agreements.
Though he has talked about principles, his comments suggest significant changes in his attitude toward free trade given his previous negative comments about the Korea-U.S. deal.
The atmosphere is also improving on U.S. beef imports, a major stumbling block in congressional ratification of the accord.
Joel Haggard, senior vice president of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, complained that the sale of U.S. beef in Korea has not met his expectations, but his attitude was softer than in the past. The change of attitude will likely help facilitate the congressional approval process.
It is premature to be optimistic, however. Quite a few figures in the Obama administration and Congress say the Korea-U.S. accord is unfavorable to the U.S. car industry. House Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sandy Levin and House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel say they will not move a step forward without resolving automotive trade issues. Tim Reif, general counsel for the U.S. Trade Representative, holds a similar view.
Revising the free trade agreement is unacceptable for Korea. The two countries can, however, consider ways to seek a mutually beneficial solution by making additional deals without changing the existing agreement.
Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said yesterday, There is no rewriting the agreement that has already been signed. He also noted, however, that Washington should first propose a new solution acceptable to Korea and something that does not hurt the balance of interest that has been reached.
The trade committee of Korea`s National Assembly has approved the deal for deliberation at the main parliamentary session. Washington should also try to advance ratification, which will promote bilateral trade, employment and alliance.
The June 16 Korea-U.S. summit in Washington is an opportunity for the two allies to take a big step toward ratification and effectuation of the trade pact. Seoul should also continue to take full advantage of its diplomatic and private channels to help facilitate congressional ratification of the deal.