Civic groups continue rally against S.K.-U.S. trade deal

SOUTH KOREA - With South Korea and the United States forging a free trade agreement on April 2, civic groups here were ratcheting up their opposition to the economic pact, blaming the government for "giving up our sovereignty in return for nothing."
calendar icon 4 April 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong (right) and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bahtia

Negotiators from Seoul and Washington finally wrapped up 13 months of difficult talks on the FTA, designed to break down tariffs and other trade barriers between the two economic powers.

In response, the Korean Alliance against KorUS FTA and another progressive civic group held an emergency meeting on April 3 in which participants reviewed and analyzed the contents of the trade pact.

"Based on our review, South Korea accepted 90 percent of the U.S.’s demands in the FTA," Lee Hae-yeong, a professor at Hanshin University, told the participants of the meeting. "Things have not ended, as Democratic Party lawmakers of the U.S. issued a statement opposing the deal, in particular regarding the automotive and textile sectors, and virtually demanding the resumption of negotiations," the professor continued.

Beef and quarantine sector

Park Sang-pyo, chief editor of VETNEWS, a journal by a group of veterinarian activists, said, "If we lift restrictions on U.S. beef altogether, it would deal a huge blow to the local market by forcing a price cut of 21 percent for Korean calves and 5.1 percent for cattle. Gradual elimination of tariffs will also aggravate the situation, with around 200 to 300 billion won [US$213 to 319 million] of damage expected to be inflicted upon local farmers in total."

Park continued by saying that the government is putting the health and life of its own people in jeopardy by accepting U.S. demands to ease quarantine standards and restrictions on imported meat that has a "potentially high risk" of mad cow disease.

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