Trade deals: South Korea finally wins FTA with the US, but hurdles remain
Trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama were ratified last night. The FTA with South Korea highlights a key moment in US-Korean relations, but the deal still faces obstacles in South Korea.
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US-Korean relations appear to have reached a pinnacle of understanding and cooperation on issues from trade to defense against North Korea. Nonetheless Mr. Lee's foes in Seoul are digging in against quick approval by South Korea’s often obstreperous national assembly.
“US ratification of the FTA may be a mixed blessing for President Lee,” wrote Edward Reed of the Asia Foundation in Seoul. “The opposition party and civil society are already mobilizing to call for renegotiation or rejection of the pact.”
There’s no denying, however, the joy of a wide range of observers on both sides of the Pacific.
Trade groups ecstatic
Korea’s two most powerful trade groups, the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Korean Industries, say ratification of the FTA by the legislative bodies of both countries would “be a boon to exports that have been the main engine of economic growth” and “raise competitiveness of locally made automobiles, car parts, textiles, and electronics.”
The American Chamber of Commerce Korea appears just as happy. “The agreement is a win-win deal that will increase bilateral trade and create much-needed jobs in both countries,” says an American Chamber of Commerce official, “ to ensure that businesses, workers, and citizens in Korea and the United States fully benefit from this historic agreement.”
Senate Republicans had just one criticism of the FTA before it sailed to final passage in the Senate by an 83-15 vote. Why, asked the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, had Obama waited for nearly three years to send the Korea FTA bill to Congress?