For success of FTA
Question is how to maximize benefits of free trade
A free trade agreement (FTA) between South Korea and the United States is to take effect on March 15. This means the deal becomes reality in three weeks. The pact will hopefully enhance economic partnership and consolidate the alliance between the two countries. Now, it’s time for both sides to work even more closely together for co-prosperity.
Of course, the effectuation of the Korea-U.S. FTA does not promise success automatically. Rather its success will depend on how the signatories beef up cooperation. According to estimates by state-funded think tanks, the FTA is likely to boost Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 5.6 percent over the next 10 years, creating 350,000 jobs.
But, some argue that the predictions are blown out of proportion, saying that the deal unfairly favors the U.S. Among those skeptics are members of the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP). They have threatened to scrap the FTA if it scores a victory in the April general elections, unless Washington agrees to hold renegotiations to revise some clauses. Certainly, the DUP have gone too far. It is not desirable to make such a threat shortly before the pact goes into force.
If it objects to the trade deal only for the sake of opposition, the DUP cannot win the hearts and minds of the people. It must remember that the Korea-U.S. FTA was initiated by late President Roh Moo-hyun with support from his ruling party, whose mainstream is now the DUP. It is necessary to see if it is possible to undo the FTA. It appears unrealistic to revoke the trade accord, considering the nation’s credibility.
It would be better for the DUP to compromise. One good way is to hold a debate about the side effects of free trade and make proposals on how to overcome the problem. What’s important is to present a viable solution. The FTA is not confined to economic ties. It can provide a basis for broader partnership and strategic alliance with America in such fields as defense, security, science, technology and culture.
President Lee Myung-bak and the governing Saenuri Party had better hold a discussion with the DUP and other liberal parties to seek their support for the FTA. Both ruling and opposition camps are required to join hands to work out measures to maximize the benefits of the FTA. They also must cooperate to help farmers, fishermen and others who will be hit hard by free trade with the U.S.
The government already unveiled a 54-trillion-won ($48-billion) package for them. But such measures should not be just a bottomless pit of money. It is imperative to encourage vulnerable industries to push for restructuring and raise competitiveness so that all players can adjust to a new trade environment and share the fruits of free trade.