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2006/12/28

[轉載] Skepticism Grows Over FTA With US

 

[韓國時報] By Na Jeong-ju Staff Reporter http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/200612/kt2006122717370210160.htm

South Korea will be unable to sign a free trade agreement with the United States by the March deadline due to unfavorable political situations in the two countries, a private economic institute predicted Wednesday. The Samsung Economic Research Institute, affiliated with the country’s largest conglomerate Samsung Group, said the FTA talks will face challenges especially from the United States since the Democrats took control of Congress in recent mid-term elections. It predicted the Democrats are deemed more likely to oppose an FTA with South Korea because of objections from labor unions. ``South Korea and the U.S. are expected to miss the March deadline for an FTA signing,’’ the institute said. The institute also said a lack of consensus in South Korea on the FTA and the lame duck position of the Roh Moo-hyun administration will make it tougher to finalize the negotiations by the deadline. The presidential election here will take place next December. Both sides are making efforts to wrap up the negotiations by March. The deadline is important since U.S. President George W. Bush’s ``fast-track’’ authority expires on June 30. A 90-day review of a deal is needed for Congress to vote on it without amendments. The two sides have held FTA talks since June. The fifth and latest round of negotiations was held in Montana, but they made little progress on pending issues such as automobiles, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. As for North Korea's nuclear issue, the institute said tension on the Korean Peninsula is expected to linger into next year as the six-party talks, which resumed recently after a 13-month hiatus, will not make enough headway to put an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. ``If the six-party talks collapse this time, it is likely to bring about toughened sanctions by the U.N. against the Stalinist regime, which will inevitably raise tension in this region,’’ the institute said. The institute also said the economy has been plagued by weak employment, low income growth and falling corporate profitability, despite solid economic growth and brisk exports. The economic sentiments of many South Koreans worsened this year due to concerns over the local currency’s ascent, oil prices, the North Korean nuclear risk, property market unease and rising household debt, it said. ``On the surface, the Korean economy performed brilliantly in 2006, with around 5 percent economic growth, $300 billion in exports and a stock market index soaring to above 1,400,’’ the think tank said. ``Under the surface, however, the economy performed poorly due to the lackluster job and income growth of households as well as falling profitability of local companies.’’ jj@koreatimes.co.kr 12-27-2006



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