Go to contents

[Op-Ed] Obama and the Korea-US FTA

Posted October. 29, 2009 08:54,   


U.S. President Barack Obama has made several comments on the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement this year. “I understand that Korean President Lee Myung-bak has made a lot of efforts to pursue the Korea-U.S. FTA. I have a strong will to pursue the FTA (bilateral summit in April).” “An FTA with Korea, our seventh-largest trading partner, will boost prosperity for the people of the two nations (receiving credentials from Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Han Duck-soo).” The Joint Vision for the ROK-U.S. Alliance, a statement released by both leaders in June, also says, “The two sides will continue to further strengthen bilateral relations on economy, trade and investment. Based on the recognition that the agreement will further strengthen such relations, we’ll work together to plan our way to go for the future.”

If Obama’s comments were not an empty promise, the ratification of the deal might have proceeded more smoothly. Yet little progress has been made 28 months after the accord was signed. In a commentary Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal said Obama has done nothing to get the agreement ratified. His administration’s stance is in stark contrast to that of the Korean government, which presented the deal to the National Assembly for ratification long ago.

Americans favor ratification of the free trade deal. When the U.S. Trade Representative conducted a survey on 288 American businesses in July, 92 percent said they back ratification. They urged Washington to promptly ratify the pact, saying it will contribute to U.S. economic growth and improve bilateral relations in security and diplomacy. Nevertheless, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler is pinning hopes on renegotiation due to fears in the auto sector. Delaying the deal’s ratification because of a certain industry is not right.

Obama will arrive in Seoul Nov. 17 for a two-day visit. What suggestions he will make is attracting interest. Over the short term, Korea will announce a plan to send troops to Afghanistan to protect rehabilitation teams to contribute to world peace, strengthen its alliance with the U.S., and mark Obama’s first visit to Korea. His predecessor President George W. Bush said, “The Korea-U.S. FTA will further cement political ties between the U.S. and Korea.” It is a high time for Obama to speak from his heart.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)