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The Opposition`s Objection to Free Trade

Posted October. 09, 2010 10:37,   


After Korea became the first Asian country to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union, Japan`s private sector and government expressed a sense of crisis. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, who effectively serves as the guide for the Naoto Kan administration, said, “Japan could lag behind amid the trend of globalization.” In an era when national boundaries are being lowered and dismantled, facing a situation likened to national isolation is considered serious. Mikio Katayama, president of Japanese electronics giant Sharp, said, “Japanese companies cannot afford to rely on their own tariff cuts for Korean products,” expressing discontent and asking why Japan cannot conclude free trade deals with the EU sooner rather than later. Japan’s Asia Economic Institute said Japan will lose its share of the European market worth 3 billion U.S. dollars per year to Korea due to the free trade deal.

The U.S. has also paid keen attention to the signing of the Korea-EU deal. U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly ordered U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to speed up the ratification process to get the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement to take effect as soon as possible. Democratic Congressman David Camp warned that the signing of the Korea-EU deal has demonstrated that American exporters and workers could lag behind other countries in competition. With interim U.S. elections scheduled for early next month, chances are low that Washington will hurry the ratification of the deal with Korea, but the signing of the Korea-EU agreement has apparently stimulated the U.S.

The Korea-EU accord is expected to create more than 250,000 jobs and eight trillion won (7.1 billon U.S. dollars) in national income, though the Korean agricultural sector including the livestock industry will suffer serious damage. In trade negotiations, however, one cannot secure big gains without making concessions. Korea`s ruling and opposition parties must pool their wisdom to remedy domestic aftereffects.

Lawmakers from Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party have shown a negative response to Korea emerging as an “advanced free trade nation” after Seoul`s conclusion of accords with the U.S., India and the EU. The party said, “The Korea-EU FTA is problematic in communication because public discussion was shelved,” demanding the formation of a special committee on the deal. Korea began negotiations with the EU in May 2007 under the Roh Moo-hyun government and has continued talks for three years and five months. Thirty-two opposition lawmakers including Chung Dong-young, Chun Jung-bae, Park Joo-sun and Cho Bae-sook of the Democratic Party and Lee Jung-hee, chief of the progressive Democratic Labor Party, have demanded a complete renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. deal. Washington is also demanding additional negotiations, saying the agreement was signed in Korea’s favor. Under these circumstances, how does Korea benefit by demanding renegotiation? Reps. Chung and Chun, who served as ministers under the Roh administration, are not even qualified to mention renegotiation.

For Korea not to lag behind in global competition and continue to raise national income and jobs, it has no other option but to expand trade. If opposition parties seek to block government policy on every issue that could determine the survival of the people and the future of the nation, they will effectively benefit rival countries.