By Kim Young-jin
Two U.S. senators are pressing President Barack Obama to submit the stalled Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) to Congress before Seoul hosts the G-20 Summit later this year.
In a letter released Monday, Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar called on the Obama administration to resolve outstanding issues and submit the deal ``as soon as possible.’’
``Such action would send a powerful signal in support of opening new markets during South Korea's chairmanship of the G-20,’’ the letter said, adding it would be ``a significant show of solidarity with a close and reliable ally.’’
The deal was signed three years ago but still awaits ratification by the legislatures of both countries. Washington has been reluctant due to what it views as lopsided auto trade and restricted shipments of American beef.
A number of U.S. lawmakers have said ratification is unlikely before the upcoming midterm elections this November.
Some analysts suggest Obama is reluctant to push the KORUS FTA for fear of risking political capital as his administration tackles the daunting domestic issues of immigration and the economy.
Kerry and Lugar said the pact would create American jobs, not lose them, as some members of Obama’s Democratic Party fear.
The scope of the agreement and the size of both our economies ― the world's largest and 14th largest in terms of GDP, respectively ― are significant enough to create thousands of well-paying jobs and help generate billions in wealth for both countries, they said.
The senators added that inaction would risk losing Korea’s markets to other countries, citing its recent trade agreements with the European Union and India.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said last month the administration hopes to complete at least one of its three pending FTAs ― with Columbia, Panama and Korea ― this year, without saying which would come first.
Seoul will host the G-20 summit of major advanced and emerging economies in November, which will discuss ways to expedite recovery from the global recession.