SKorea's ruling party vows to push for FTA ratification

SEOUL, March 10, 2009 (AFP) - South Korea's ruling party vowed Tuesday to push ahead with ratification of a free trade pact with the United States despite calls for renegotiation from US trade envoy-designate Ron Kirk.

"We must go our own way regardless of the movement in the US Congress," Grand National Party parliamentary leader Hong Joon-Pyo told reporters.

Kirk told his Senate confirmation hearing on Monday that "in the case of Korea, the current status quo simply isn't acceptable.

"The president has said, and I agree, the agreement, as it is, just simply isn't fair and if we don't get that right, we'll be prepared to step away from that," he said.

South Korea has ruled out renegotiating the pact, which was signed in 2007 and cleared a subcommittee of its parliament last month.

The main opposition Democratic Party said South Korea's parliament must not endorse the pact since the new US trade envoy wants renegotiation.

But Hong said his party would seek approval from another committee this month before the pact was submitted to a full session of the National Assembly for ratification.

The GNP believes the pact is necessary to stimulate the economy and argues that approval by Seoul will encourage the US Congress also to pass it.

The pact would be the largest for the United States since it signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1994.

Ahead of his election in November US President Barack Obama called the deal "badly flawed." He said it did too little to narrow a huge trade imbalance in South Korea's favour in the auto trade.

South Korea shipped about 700,000 cars to the United States in 2007 while importing 5,000 American cars, official figures showed.

Some analysts in Seoul say the figures are misleading, since they exclude more than 125,000 vehicles made by a General Motors subsidiary in Korea while including vehicles made by a Hyundai plant in Alabama.

Source: AFP

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