According to a survey conducted by a Korean daily newspaper, nine of ten experts on Korean affairs in the U.S. felt it is unlikely that the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement would be ratified by the U.S. Congress this year, with some even predicting that it had little chance next year either.
Since the Korea-U.S. FTA was signed by the two governments on June 30, 2007, the Korean government including the embassy in Washington has made various efforts to have it ratified by U.S. Congress.
In addition, at a meeting during Obama’s visit to Korea in December of last year, President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to try and ratify the delayed bilateral free trade agreement in 2010. In an interview with Fox News in Beijing just before his visiting to Korea, President Obama said, “The question is whether we can get it done in the beginning of 2010, or whether we can get it done at the end of 2010. There are still some details that need to be worked out. And one of my goals is to make sure that we can create a win-win situation.” But the political environment in both countries seems to not have changed, but even got worse since the signing of the FTA.
Considering the American internal situation, including the “war on terror” and mid-term elections, there is now little chance the ratification will occur this year. The American administration’s will to take on the FTA seems to be also doubtful. Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke in a recent press interview said that no specific timetable has been set to send the bill to Congress. This impression was also given by Korean lawmakers back in middle of January after meeting senior officials in the U.S. administration and congressmen. In Korea also, there are many hurdles to overcome in the national assembly, where ruling and opposition parties are in confrontation regarding various issues, including the Sejong City and 4 rivers restoration projects as well as lingering issues regarding the mad-cow candlelight demonstrations.
What matters is whether the Korean government is now well prepared to overcome such hurdles both internally and externally. The Korean government should iron out a real win-win strategy to break through these obstacles, waiting with patience instead of pushing ahead right now.