South Korea Passes Trade Agreement With The US

Posted November 22nd, 2011 at 4:35 am (UTC-5)
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South Korea’s parliament has ratified a free trade agreement with the United States, in a contentious vote that erupted in violence in the parliament chamber.

The bill passed on a vote of 151 to seven during a special parliamentary session Tuesday.

Outnumbered opposition lawmakers reacted angrily to the move to force a vote, shouting protests and setting off a teargas cannister in the chamber.

The vote comes one month after the U.S. Congress approved the deal and President Barack Obama signed it into law.

The pact, known as the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, was signed nearly four-and-a-half years ago. It is the most significant trade pact for the United States since the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Wendy Sherman, the U.S. under-secretary of state for political affairs, defended the trade deal earlier Tuesday after meetings at the foreign ministry in Seoul.

((opt soundbite in English: “This Free Trade Agreement was negotiated because it was in the interest of both our countries to increase trade and increase the prosperity and availability of jobs for our citizens. We believe this free trade agreement will do that, and we look forward to the Republic of Korea ratifying this free trade agreement as soon as it possibly can.”

South Korean critics of the agreement were seeking removal of a clause that would allow foreign investors to take disputes to an international arbitration panel. They call the provision an infringement of South Korea’s sovereignty and had insisted President Lee Myung-bak discuss their objections with Mr. Obama.