Friday, August 25, 2006

US ROK FTA - Have the Koreans Given Up

A couple stories today indicate that perhaps even the Koreans have given up on reaching an FTA with the Americans. First, and most damning, is a Korea Times quoting the Minister of Industry Commerce and Energy:

In a meeting with newspaper business editors Wednesday night, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Chung Sye-kyun said, "We could choose the EU as the primary negotiator for an FTA if the talks with the U.S. linger too long.”

However Mr. Chung goes on to expand with a profundity that makes me wonder if he does not know his ass from a hole in the ground:

Chung said Korea will not hasten negotiations, although the Bush administration's Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), given by the U.S. Congress, will expire on June 30, 2007. "Should the talks face hurdles, an extension of talks would be possible (regardless of the TPA).''

This man expects to do an FTA with out "fast-track" authority? You gotta be kidding me! What ever is agreed to at the table, the US Senate is sure to butcher it to something unrecognizable. For instance just yesterday Michigan lawmakers tried to score some cheap political points, without "fast-track" their views can actually make it into an FTA. Does Mr. Lee actually want that to happen?

Mr. Lee continues with the nuggets of wisdom:

He also said there is a possibility that U.S. would extend the maturity of President Bush's trade-related right.

Does Mr. Lee actually think that in the midst of the war on terror Bush is going to invest the political capital necessary to renew "fast-track" just because Korea won't come to a decision? This goes beyond narcissistic and crosses into smugness. Bush aint going to do anything for you Lee, and not only that if your counting "fast-track" with whoever is elected in 2008, that is a close to rolling the dice as you can get.

Mr. Lee's comments make me seriously wonder who the hell is advising the Korean leadership in regards to an FTA, and more specifically the political climate of the US. Its like they get all their information of the US government from 70's vintage Schoolhouse Rock shorts.

While we have Mr. Lee jumping off the US ROK FTA bandwagon, we have the GNP using a meeting on the FTA to score cheap political points:

President Roh Moo-hyun is scheduled to hold a dinner meeting with lawmakers working in the National Assembly’s special committee on the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) at Chong Wa Dae today...But the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) boycotted the meeting, citing the inopportuneness of the event as the nation has been embroiled in a scandal over the “Pada Iyagi,” or “Sea Story” video gambling games. 

Classy guys, a momentous opportunity for Korea and all you guys can do is skip out on a strategy session so you can remind the national of a scandal. Classy...

One can say this is just the usual domestic politics in Korea. However I a bit disturbed due to the fact Korea has constantly talked about the need for internal dialogue to "sell" the FTA, yet the GNP thinks sticking it to the president is more important.  Could this very well be the simple fact that the FTA is not nearly as important anymore and the rats are leaving the ship?


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