The White House says the bilateral free trade agreement will be a main agenda item of U.S. President Barack Obamas visit to Seoul next month. Korean President Lee Myung-bak will have a one-on-one meeting with Obama Nov. 11 on the sidelines of the G-20 summit to discuss ratification of the agreement. Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk held talks in San Francisco Tuesday and Wednesday on remaining contentious issues in the pact. The Lee-Obama summit will mark a critical moment for the agreement, which has languished for more than three years since being concluded in April 2007 and signed by the two countries in June the same year.
Eleven Korean think tanks say implementation of the accord will raise Koreas GDP up to 80 trillion won (7.1 billion U.S. dollars) and create 340,000 jobs over the next 10 years. U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said in July that the pact will raise U.S. exports to Korea by 10 billion to 11 billion dollars and add 70,000 jobs. The deal will also bolster the bilateral alliance and enhance Koreas international standing.
Many in the U.S. believe that free trade with other countries will deprive them of jobs. According to a U.S. survey conducted early this month, the number of Americans who said free trade agreements benefit their country declined to 20 percent from 24 percent in 1999. Those who said such deals will be harmful soared to 53 percent from 32 percent over the same period. In Korea, opposition parties and left-leaning forces are attempting to oppose the agreement. Chung Dong-young, a leading member of the main opposition Democratic Party, urged the dismissal of Trade Minister Kim, saying, Kim is deceiving the people by holding closed-door negotiations.
Negotiations between nations always leave something to be desired. Concluded 3 1/2 years ago, the agreement will benefit both countries if economic and non-economic benefits are taken into consideration. By respecting the spirit of mutual consent the two countries showed in 2007, both sides should hasten ratification to get the deal to take effect as soon as possible.
Most desirable is ratification of the deal without changes, but ignoring the U.S. perception that the deal is tilted toward Korea is difficult. Even if changes are necessary, they must be made within an extremely limited range by respecting the spirit and principles established when the deal was concluded in 2007. Excessive U.S. pressure will make it difficult for the deal`s ratification by Korea`s National Assembly. This will harm U.S. national interests.