Opposition links passage of unrelated bills to China FTA
By Yi Whan-woo
The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) is being criticized for delaying ratification of Korea's free trade deal with China by linking it to pending bills that have nothing to do with the deal.
The NPAD claims the bills on next year's budget, labor reform, welfare and other issues are related to the ratification motion and they cannot be dealt with separately. However, the ruling Saenuri Party argues that such tactics are delaying the process of ratifying the China FTA.
The rival parties agreed on Friday to hold a plenary National Assembly session on Monday for a vote on the FTA. However, it remains to be seen whether the parties will be able to ratify the deal due to wide differences.
"It will be impossible to endorse the FTA alone unless the discussions over the pending bills are settled," said NPAD floor spokeswoman Rep. Lee Un-ju. "This is because the ratification of the Korea-China FTA can affect those bills."
On Friday, the parties agreed to hold meetings of a consultative body involving the government and National Assembly's foreign affairs committee to discuss the ratification motion.
Lee then said the NPAD could boycott the session if the party's demand was not met.
The opposition wants the Saenuri Party's endorsement to pass a series of pending bills. Some of them deal with free nursery care for children aged between three and five, extension of the special investigation into the cause of the Sewol ferry disaster in April 2014, and creation of jobs for jobseekers in their 20s and early 30s.
The liberals consider those bills critical.
"We'll completely review our schedule on Nov. 30 if the Saenuri Party doesn't come up with prospective answers," Lee said. "Moreover, we only agreed to discuss the FTA-related matters on Nov. 30, and it doesn't mean we'll ratify the FTA."
Speculation is strong that the NPAD will delay ratification of the Korea-China FTA to early December.
National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa said he would use his authority to table the vote today.
The Saenuri Party also said it would railroad the ratification alone if the NPAD continued to be uncooperative.
The ruling party has 157 seats in the 294-member parliament, enough for a simple majority, while the NPAD has 127.
The FTA with China, Korea's biggest trading partner, was signed on June 1 and is awaiting parliamentary approval in both countries.
원내지도부, 휴일 오전 국회서 회동
여야 원내 지도부는 휴일인 29일 오전 국회에서 회동해 한·중 자유무역협정(FTA) 비준동의안의 국회 본회의 처리를 위한 협상을 계속했다.
새누리당 원유철·새정치민주연합 이종걸 원내대표와 새누리당 김정훈·새정치연합 최재천 정책위의장은 이날 회동에서 무역이득공유제, 밭농업 직불금, 피해보전직불금제, 수산업 직불금 등 피해 산업에 대한 구제 대책을 놓고 계속 이견을 보인 것으로 전해졌다.
여야는 일단 오전 협상에서 결론을 내지 못하고 오후 3시에 다시 만나기로 했지만 최종 합의에 이를 수 있을지는 미지수다.
새누리당은 만약 이날 중 여야 간 합의 도출에 실패하면 30일 예정된 국회 외교통일위원회 전체회의와 본회의에서 여당 단독으로라도 한·중 FTA 비준안을 처리한다는 방침이다. (연합뉴스)