Seoul Pushes US Trade Pact Despite Stiff Opposition

Posted October 31st, 2011 at 5:20 am (UTC-5)
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South Korea’s finance minister says he believes it is time for the National Assembly to move ahead with “swift action” to ratify a controversial trade agreement with the United States.

Opposition members have raised the prospect of physical violence on the floor of the Assembly if the ruling Grand National Party tries to use its majority to force a vote on the legislation this week.

But Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan told reporters Monday the government wants to move ahead, convinced that the trade pact will speed South Korea’s recovery from the global economic slowdown.

He added that the government has already promised steps to help any industries that are damaged by the deal.

The U.S. Congress acted earlier this month to ratify the agreement, which was first negotiated in 2007. But South Korea’s left-leaning Democratic Party and other opposition groupings oppose the deal, fearing some industries will suffer from increased U.S. competition.

The government wants to ratify the pact this week so it can go into effect at the beginning of January. But some opposition lawmakers have vowed to physically block any attempt to bring the agreement to the floor of the Assembly.

Controversial bills have, in the past, prompted fist and furniture-swinging melees in the Assembly.