The Chosun Ilbo (South Korea)
May 25, 2009

Referring to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said on Friday, "The U.S. side must offer a solution first, and it should be one that we can accept and does not damage the existing balance of gains for both sides." Kim added, "It does not make sense to try to make amends to the agreement already settled by both sides. It is up to the U.S. government, which raised the issue, to decide on what should be done outside of the agreement."

As Kim said, it is up to the U.S. government to resolve the problems surrounding the ratification and effectuation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, which has been gathering dust for two years since first agreed in April of 2007. Braving physical clashes between ruling and opposition parties, a standing committee at the Korean National Assembly passed the bilateral free trade pact and submitted it to the plenary session of parliament for ratification. But in the United States, the FTA has yet to even be presented before Congress.

Until now, the U.S. Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama have been seeking a renegotiation of the bilateral pact, claiming results of trade negotiations in beef and automobiles were disadvantageous to American industries. But recently, the U.S. Meat Export Federation said it would not ask Congress to reopen beef talks with Korea. And the U.S. auto industry, which is turning to government aid for survival after being driven to bankruptcy due to "excessive" welfare benefits for its unionized workers and irresponsible management, is in no position to complain that the FTA with Korea is unfair.

Fortunately, there are signs of change within the United States. Obama told Korea’s Ambassador to Washington Han Duck-soo that the trade pact with Korea, the seventh-largest U.S. trading partner, would strengthen and promote prosperity for the people of both countries. It was a shift from the stance Obama demonstrated while running for presidency. At that time, he referred to the pact as being unfair to American automotive companies. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk also said recently that expanded trade through already-signed and new free trade agreements is needed, in order for the U.S. and global economies to recover quickly. It is now time for the United States to put those words into action and realize the principles of free trade.